August 3, 2011
Dear Head Start Colleague,
We breathe a sigh of relief as the scary prospect of our country being thrown into economic chaos is removed by the "deal" to lift the debt ceiling. But the scary question that remains is how the $917 billion domestic spending cuts that are promised as part of that deal will affect Head Start and Early Head Start. In the worst scenario, 320,000 children and families - nearly one third of Head Start's current capacity would be left without services.
The outcome will depend on how hard each member and supporter of our community is willing to work. And I can say this with certainty because fending off a $1.2 billion dollar cut and ending up with a $350 million increase in the FY11 budget did not just happen. Some 75,000 Head Start advocates relentlessly called, emailed, and visited their Members of Congress and their staff. The relationships that were forged from these efforts were key to our shared success.
But, that extraordinary effort was just a dress rehearsal. Fortunately, we learned which strategies worked and that the impossible can be accomplished. The challenge before us now is finding in our busy and stressful lives, the energy and motivation to engage again. We are calling on you to recruit parents, staff, and members of your community to join our national effort to save Head Start.
Our pledge is to be your partner in making it as easy as possible to be a convincing, invincible advocate. We will keep you posted and won't ask you to do a single thing that is not going to be productive or effective. We will be there to answer all questions, lend any support you need and celebrate your accomplishments.
Together we can work to keep Head Start and Early Head Start funded! Are you ready?
The first important step is attending - and encouraging others to attend - as many Town Hall meetings and other public events hosted by your Members of Congress during the August Congressional recess. It is enormously important for Head Start voices to be heard during these issue-defining public meetings! By the end of this week, our team will provide you with suggested talking points and questions to ask.
The second step will be enhancing and lifting up something over which you already make a big deal - the first days of the school year. First Day will be a national celebration of the return of our children to their Head Start classrooms. We have invited President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Vice-President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and the Secretaries of HHS and Education to participate. We hope you also will invite your Members of Congress, their district staff, as well as your community supporters, allies, friends, and the press to learn more about this great national commitment to opportunity for all children. We will provide detailed information about what the day might look like for your program and some helpful planning tips later this week.
Without a doubt, we are facing some difficult challenges in the weeks and months ahead. Taking these first steps together, however, will put us on the path toward repeating our successes of last year and keeping open the window of opportunity that is Head Start!