Philanthropists Laura and John Arnold have donated this week $10 million in emergency funding to support the National Head Start Association (NHSA) during the government shutdown, allowing more than 7,000 at-risk children to return to their Head Start classrooms, the NHSA has announced.
The funds will directly aid Head Start and Early Head Start programs that were forced to close or were facing closure this month due to the shutdown, NHSA says.
“For nearly fifty years, Head Start has been the window of opportunity for more than 27 million of our nation’s poorest children as they embark on their journey to achieve the American Dream,” says Yasmina Vinci, NHSA’s executive director, in the announcement. “The Arnolds’… have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.”
Head Start funding for 2014 has not been appropriated yet due to the stalemate in Washington, leaving some programs with no access to federal funds, NHSA notes.
At the end of the first week of the government shutdown, seven Head Start programs in six states (Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi) were closed, leaving 7,195 children without access to Head Start, NHSA says. IN addition, more than 11,000 additional children risk losing access to comprehensive Head Start services if the shutdown continues through October.
If the government does not reopen by November 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. Territory stand to lose access to Head Start funding.
“The entire Head Start community and the at-risk children we serve are tremendously grateful to the Arnolds for their compassion and generosity,” Vinci says in the announcement. “The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children. Our elected officials simply must find a fiscal solution that protects, preserves and promotes the promise that quality early learning opportunities like Head Start offer to nearly one million at-risk children each year.”
If, after the government shutdown, the government provides Head Start programs funding sufficient to fund their operations for a fifty-two week period, Head Start programs will repay the funds made available by the National Head Start Association at no interest, NHSA says.