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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Introduction of H. Res. 92, Resolution Commemorating the 50Th Anniversary of Project Head Start

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2015-02-05

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    JACKSON LEE of texas in the house of representatives Thursday, February 5, 2015 Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride and deep appreciation for the opportunities this great nation affords to its citizens that I rise to announce that joined by more than 65 co- sponsors, I have today introduced H. Res. 92, a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of Project Head Start, one of the signal achievements of the Great Society and boldest initiatives launched by the nation in the War on Poverty.

    Launched in the White House Rose Garden on May 18, 1965, by President Lyndon Baines [[Page E173]] Johnson, the aim of Project Head Start was bold and audacious in its scope and design.

    As President Johnson stated in announcing the opening of a new front in the War on Poverty with the launch of Project Head Start: ``We set out to make certain that poverty's children would not be forevermore poverty's captives. . . .

    ``This means that nearly half the preschool children of poverty will get a head start on their future. . . .

    ``These children will receive preschool training to prepare them for regular school in September. . . .

    ``They will get medical and dental attention that they badly need, and parents will receive counseling on improving the home environment.'' Conceived as an eight-week summer program designed to provide pre- school training not just to prepare 5 and 6 year-olds to enter regular school the following September, but also to give nearly half the preschool children living in poverty ``a head start on their future.'' At its launch, the Head Start Program, administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity and wonderfully and skillfully led by its Director, Sargent Shriver, consisted of 2,500 projects, covering 11,000 Child Development Centers, serving about 530,000 poor children in every state of the Union.

    Mr. Speaker, President Johnson recognized that the bleak future waiting for children trapped in poverty was not a phenomenon concentrated in the inner-cities of the large urban cities of the North but could be found in every region in every state in the nation.

    That is why the Head Start Program was launched not as a mere demonstration project limited to a handful of counties, but as a program national in scope serving every city, suburb, and rural area in the United States.

    Mr. Speaker, in addition to providing pre-school training to prepare poor children to enter regular school and help put them on an even footing with their classmates as they enter school, the Head Start Program had an even higher aim and nobler purpose: to assist children prepare for the challenges they will face in life and to combat poverty's great weapons--hunger and malnutrition; illness and poor health; ignorance and cultural deprivation.

    Project Head Start was from the start a national undertaking, utilizing the services of 41,000 professionals, including teachers, doctors, dentists, nurses, nutritionists, employing more than 47,000 persons, who were assisted by more than 500,000 volunteers.

    Based on its initial success as a summer program, the following year, in 1966, Head Start was funded as a primarily part day, 9 month program, largely through existing community action programs.

    In later years, the Head Start Program would be expanded to serve children with disabilities, Native Americans, homeless children, and to provide bilingual and bicultural migrant and seasonal programs serving 6,000 children in 21 states.

    Today, the Head Start Program serves nearly a million poor children, including: 160,829 enrolled in Early Head Start for 3-year olds; 910,833 enrolled in Head Start; 20,627 American Indian/Alaska Native children enrolled in Head Start; 4,722 American Indian/Alaska Native children enrolled in Early Head Start; 32,082 children of migrant or seasonal workers enrolled in Head Start; and 40,853 homeless children enrolled in Head Start.

    Additionally, Head Start Program serves 136,120 children with disabilities, 15,632 pregnant women, and provides services to 771,840 families.

    In my home state of Texas, the Head Start Program serves 661,000 poor children under the age of 5, including 2,471 homeless children, 8,370 children with disabilities, and provides services to 53,333 families.

    And in my home city of Houston, a remarkable organization called AVANCE has been serving the needs of low-income children and families since its founding in 1973.

    AVANCE offers Head Start, Early Head Start, Parenting, Healthy Marriage, Fatherhood, and other programs designed to prepare and help low-income children, students, and families reach their potential.

    Mr. Speaker, not only has the Head Start Program been a great benefit to its direct beneficiaries, it has provided substantial economic and social benefits to the nation as a whole.

    Research studies have shown that for each dollar invested, the Head Start program yields a rate of return on investment (ROI) of 7-9 percent and the program is responsible for the direct creation of 236,591 jobs, with an average annual salary of about $31,000 for Head Start teachers with baccalaureate degrees.

    Mr. Speaker, another societal benefit of the Head Start Program is the improved health of the children and families it serves.

    Research has shown that the mortality rates for 5- to 9-year-old children who had attended Head Start are 33-50% lower than the rates for comparable children not enrolled in Head Start.

    Moreover, Head Start children are less likely to fall victim to childhood obesity and are at least 8% more likely to have had their immunizations than children who did not attend preschool.

    Mr. Speaker, the Head Start Program has been an unqualified success for the more than 31 million children and parents it has served since its inception in 1965.

    And so it is that we can look back with pride on the 50 year record of this bold and innovative program.

    But we cannot yet be satisfied because our work is not done and will not be done until every eligible child is afforded the opportunity to get a head start in life the program provides.

    Today, only 42 percent of eligible low-income preschoolers are actually served by Head Start and less than 4 percent are in Early Head Start.

    But we should not let the fact that we have more work to do to strengthen the Head Start Program detract from the joy and happiness we are justified in deriving from its half century of success and its vindication of our optimistic belief in the capacity of Americans to solve pressing national problems when people of goodwill work together in the spirit of cooperation rather than conflict.

    The record of the Head Start Program shows that it can be done and that President Johnson was right--the Head Start Program was and is ``one of the most constructive, and one of the most sensible, and also one of the most exciting programs that this Nation has ever undertaken.'' And its reward for this bold act is the collective service and contributions to the betterment of society made by the 31 million children that have been served by the program over the past 50 years.

    I invite all Members of the House to join me in sponsoring the resolution celebrating the 50 year record of success of the Head Start Program and urge the Speaker to schedule H. Res. 92 for floor debate and vote at the earliest possible time so that the House may have the opportunity to pass the resolution on or before the May 18, 2015 anniversary date.

    I thank all of my colleagues who joined me as original cosponsors of H. Res. 92, and I also wish to express my thanks and appreciation to Chelsea Ukoha and Gregory Berry of my staff for their exceptional efforts and work on this wonderful tribute to a program that has contributed so much to the richness and vitality of our country.


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