October 19, 2012
The National Head Start Association mourns the death of former U.S. Senator, Arlen Specter. Senator Specter was Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. Senator and a good friend to Head Start. A beacon of bipartisanship, he forged compromises and crossed party lines to affect political change that best benefitted his constituents and the American people. At a time when we lament legislative inaction, his death comes as a tremendous loss for those who yearn for a more cooperative Congress.
Senator Specter had an indelible impact on the face of American politics and our very way of life. On the Appropriations Subcommittee, he raised funding for scholarships and student loans. Most recently, in 2009 Specter was one of only 3 Republicans to vote in favor of President Obama's $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which secured $2.1 billion dollars of funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. This allowed Head Start grantees to serve an additional 16,600 children and families and nearly doubled the number of pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families who could access Early Head Start services. Specter called this decision the “biggest vote of my 28 years.”
The Head Start community remembers him fondly. In his home state of Pennsylvania, Jane Irvin, CEO and President of Community Services for Children, remembers Senator Specter as “a strong advocate for Head Start and for Early Head Start. He helped secure funding to support an innovative Early Head Start/ Child Welfare Collaboration project (SafeStart) to help infants and their families who were struggling to meet the basic needs of life. Because of his advocacy and strong support, babies who had been abused and impacted by drugs at birth are now thriving , in safe and secure homes, along with their parents who are engaged and strong. These kids didn’t vote, and will probably never know the impact that Senator Specter had on their lives. But they are successful today because of his vision and commitment to help the most vulnerable of our citizens.”