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NHSA Responds to Klein

You may have seen Joe Klein’s unfair piece in Head Start in TIME magazine.

I am not sure which of the following was more upsetting in his article:  his comparison of the difference that Head Start has made in the lives of millions to oil companies’ subsidies;  or the misuse and misinterpretation of the Head Start Impact Study findings  (which has become a habit with Head Start’s detractors); or his total oversight of the years of research showing better health habits, higher high school graduation and college attendance rates for Head Start kids; disregard for millions of stories of families’ lives normalized; and for all the children set on a trajectory to succeed in life.  My Letter to the Editor was a faint expression of all that needed to be said.

Head Start looks for no excuses!  Not every Head Start program is perfect, or even as good as it need be.  But I have seen dozens and dozens of breathtaking Head Start programs, met hundreds, maybe thousands, of passionate, mission-driven staff, and been awed by stories of people who give credit to Head Start for being  productive members of the society (see the recent Senate testimony of Chuck Mills, businessman, Ret. Marine ).

However, Dr. James Heckman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist did not rely on such subjective, qualitative experiences as mine, but analyzed the data on the return on the investment of the public dollar.  And subsequently, he recommended to the Simpson-Bowles Commission that Head Start and Early Head Start should not be cut but expanded.  Moreover, 300+ researchers, who had over the decades researched all aspects of Head Start, wrote a letter to Congress earlier this year, stating that Head Start works and urging  continued funding for it. Kathy McCartney, the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education knows that Head Start works.

The 2007 reauthorization of Head Start has put in place even more quality and accountability safeguards and The Department of Health and Human Services has been adding a number of measures to ensure that every Head Start child receives the best quality of care and learning.  As a national commitment, Head Start is poised to be one of the cornerstones of educational reform.  And the simple truth is that during those critical earliest years for the most at-risk children in our nation, Head Start has been providing a unique window of opportunity for their brain development and character formation.

We must not let that window be lost for today’s kids and the future generations.  Help us keep it open!

-Yasmina Vinci