Last week the Democratic-led Congress passed H.R. 1429, the "Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act," legislation which increases the federal government’s investment in early childhood education.
Head Start is critical to providing Northern Virginia's children with the foundation for lifelong learning. In the forty years since it was established, Head Start has served nearly 25 million children and families in the U.S. It remains a cornerstone in this country’s efforts to close the achievement gap, combat poverty, and provide all Americans with the opportunity to thrive.
We know that Head Start works. Research shows that not only do Head Start students make important educational gains while they attend the program; they also continue to gain ground after they leave Head Start. Studies have shown that by the end of kindergarten, Head Start graduates are “essentially at national norms in early reading and writing” and have further narrowed the achievement gap in vocabulary, general knowledge and early math. In other words, Head Start is doing what we expect and demand that it should do – help prepare children to succeed in school and in life.
In 2006, 13,700 children in Virginia were enrolled in Head Start with funding that surpassed $96 million statewide. The bipartisan legislation we passed last week improves teacher and classroom quality, strengthens Head Start’s focus on school readiness, expands access to Head Start for more children, ensures that centers are well-run, boosts coordination between Head Start and state and local programs, and improves comprehensive services that help children by helping their families.
Under our legislation, Head Start is authorized to receive increased funding to ensure that Head Start centers are effective and managed efficiently, and that other necessary services and programs are strengthened for the child and family. It also increases focus on classroom quality by providing competitive teacher pay and putting more highly qualified teachers in the classroom.
On a different note, I'd like to wish everyone in the Falls Church community a very Happy Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for this year in our region and I hope you will all have ample time to take a break from the work-a-day week. Also, this holiday, let's be reminded of the less fortunate in our society and around the world. And, as always, keep our service members currently deployed overseas in our hearts and minds.