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Head Start Honors Congressional Champions at Annual Capitol Hill Event

January 31, 2020

Republicans and Democrats Unite in Support of Head Start


WASHINGTON, DC –  The National Head Start Association recognized more than two dozen members of Congress today for their leadership in supporting Head Start, the comprehensive early childhood development program for at-risk infants, young children, and their families. 

“Congressional support for Head Start is stronger than ever, as we can see by the diverse and enthusiastic presence of so many members of Congress here today to meet with the Head Start community,” NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said. “At a time when so many things are political, it is heartening to see congressional allies from all over the political spectrum take the time to hear from this gathering of hundreds of Head Start parents, staff, and advocates. As one member said, Head Start must not let our voice fade. We must remain strong and united in our fight for America’s most vulnerable children and families.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)(posthumously) were honored with NHSA’s highest award, the Robert E. Cooke Award, for their career-long dedication to supporting America’s most vulnerable children and families. Dr. Cooke was a visionary pediatrician who helped create Head Start and dedicated his career to addressing the health and wellness needs of America’s most disadvantaged children. The Award honors members of the Congress who have, throughout their careers, demonstrated a steadfast commitment to Head Start and to serving our nation’s most vulnerable children and their families, not only in their districts, but across the country.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MS) and Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Martha Roby (R-AL), Donna Shalala (D-FL), Abigail Spanberger D-VA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Susan Wild (D-PA) received the Head Start Pledge Award for demonstrating a steadfast commitment to fulfilling the Head Start pledge to serve America’s most vulnerable children and families.

Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), and David Trone (D-MD) received NHSA’s PROMISE (Protecting Our Most Important Students Early) Award. The PROMISE Award honors members of the Congress who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to Head Start and to serving our nation’s most vulnerable children and their families, not only in their districts/states, but across the nation. This year’s PROMISE Awards have been presented to members of Congress who have led the charge in supporting Head Start’s work to address childhood trauma.

In December, Congress passed a historic investment in Head Start in its fiscal year 2020 spending bill, increasing funding for the nationwide, locally-run program by nearly $550 million. The bill, which was the result of negotiations between both the House of Representatives and the Senate, included a record-setting $10.6 billion annual investment for Head Start.

The bipartisan agreement also dedicates $250 million in new resources to expand Head Start’s ability to provide trauma-informed care to the increasing number of children experiencing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), responding to recommendations NHSA’s Opioid Working Group first laid out in the 2018 report, “A Head Start on Treating Our Nation’s Opioid Epidemic.”  

The awards were presented to members of Congress during the annual Head Start Breakfast on the Hill this morning, where congressional champions addressed Head Start parents, alumni, and other supporters who were on Capitol Hill to advocate for the early childhood development program with members of Congress and their staff.

Today’s Head Start on the Hill events are part of NHSA’s 2020 Winter Leadership Institute, which brings together more than 500 Head Start leaders to plan for the future of the comprehensive early childhood education program. Leaders of the Head Start community from across the nation are convening in Washington, D.C., for four days of informative sessions, innovative panels, and results-oriented workshops.