The National Head Start Association announced its disappointment Friday following the House Committee on Appropriations’ Fiscal Year 2024 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Markup.
The bill proposes a more than $60 billion reduction in social spending, affecting more than 60 programs nationwide, including a $750,000,000 reduction to Head Start. According to NHSA, that will mean 50,000 fewer seats in Head Start classrooms.
“Make no mistake; the proposed FY24 House funding level will prevent more than 50,000 children and their families from accessing Head Start and Early Head Start’s high-quality life-changing services. It will stop critical health screenings for families living below the poverty line…” Yasmina Vinci, NHSA Executive Director, shared in a press release. “Congress only needs to look around to find Head Start programs in nearly every district with long waiting lists; communities large and small increasingly dependent on Head Start for bridging kindergarten.”
NHSA released a state-by-state breakdown, indicating how the funding reduction would affect Head Start classrooms. The data showed that there would be 2,078 fewer seats available for young students in Ohio.
“Our agency remains resolute in our mission,” Dr. Thea Wilson, Step Forward’s Vice President of Children and Families, said. “We acknowledge the challenging circumstances that led to this proposal, but in the face of adversity, we choose optimism. We believe in the power of dialogue, collaboration and advocacy. We are committed to engaging in further conversations with stakeholders, policymakers and our community to emphasize the significance of early education and the positive impact it has on the lives of children and families.”
There are allegedly more than 30,000 Head Start students enrolled across Ohio. Fully enrolled, Step Forward’s Head Start could serve up to 2,528 students.
“Together, we can shape a future where every child has the chance to thrive and succeed,” Dr. Wilson said. “We remain hopeful for the opportunities that lie ahead as we work towards a brighter tomorrow.”
NHSA continued, explaining that the funding reduction directed at Head Start would also lead to 20,000 fewer Head Start staff across the country.
“It will upend desperately needed investment in the Head Start workforce as qualified and credentialed staff will be forced to leave the field – an existing challenge even with current funding levels that would only be exacerbated,” Vinci shared.
Step Forward has experienced staffing shortages first-hand. As of July 2023, the agency was hiring nearly 90 Head Start positions. Reports confirmed that if the agency was able to fill all of its Head Start vacancies, it could open another 33 Early Head Start and Head Start classrooms and serve an additional 600 children.
“These young minds deserve dedicated and passionate educators who can uplift and empower them,” Dr. Wilson said. “We must address the shortage urgently, ensuring each child regardless of their economic background, receive the quality education they deserve.”
According to NHSA, the early learning workforce, including Head Start, rank in the lowest 10-percent of professions for compensation. The Association has insisted that budget cuts and any reduction in the workforce would lead to closed classrooms across the country, displacing low-income children from early education.
Several subcommittee members spoke during the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill Markup, in opposition of the Markup.
“By working together in the last congress, we proudly supported middle class and working families, helped lift up vulnerable Americans, and prepared our nation for future crises, which makes it all the more disappointing to see where we ended up in this year’s process,” Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) stated. “The majority’s 2024 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill and its 28% cut of $64 billion brings us back to funding to a level unseen since 2008.”
Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer, (D-MD) shared similar sentiments.
The bill proposed additional reductions, including $14 billion in cuts to Title I grants. According to DeLauro, that would force 220,000 teachers out of low-income classrooms and eliminate programs that have helped at-risk youth build a brighter future.
“The bill hangs families completely out to dry,” DeLauro stated.
Step Forward helps ensure every child has the opportunity to begin an education right, is prepared to enter kindergarten and develops a love of learning from the start. Part of Head Start’s long-lasting legacy is that it will also help create a world where mental health is nurtured and that children will have the opportunity to grow into their fullest potential. The program serves preschoolers from ages three to five years old.
To enroll for Head Start, click here.
Step Forward Head Start is hiring!
The agency is offering a sign-on bonus of $1,000 for full time employees and $500 for part-time employees.
Positions include teachers, family service workers, nutrition aides and more. Step Forward Head Start is looking for education staff passionate about preparing young students for the future and helping them develop a love for learning early. Take a step toward a new fulfilling career today! Learn more and apply to open positions here.