This year, Head Start marks its fiftieth year — a significant milestone for a program that reflects a national commitment to our nation’s most vulnerable children and families. Over the course of those fifty years, Head Start has served 32 million children by preparing them for success in Kindergarten and beyond. Sadly, however, millions of eligible children — 4,000 three and four year-olds in Minnesota alone this year — are not getting the Head Start they deserve because they are languishing on wait lists.
Fortunately, Minnesota lawmakers have a tremendous opportunity to pluck many of those children off the sidelines and place them in Head Start classes. In the wake of recent news that the Minnesota budget surplus is twice the original forecast, we are particularly enthused by Gov. Dayton’s commitment to fund Head Start waiting lists within his larger package of early childhood funding. After fifty years of proven success, the prospect of vulnerable children failing to access Head Start based on inadequate funding is heartbreaking.
We have made our home in Minneapolis and have dedicated our lives to our work as pastors and advocating for systems and programs that promote the dignity of economic self-sufficiency. We fully believe ending poverty is possible — and, without question, fully funding Head Start is a critical stepping stone on the path toward breaking the cycle of poverty. This budget matters — no child should have to wait for Head Start.
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