About 2,200 Head Start and Early learning programs in 20 Georgia Counties makes up the more than 7,000 children able to return to school Tuesday thanks to a very generous private donation.
Texas philanthropists Laura and John Arnold have saved the day by providing emergency funding of up to $10 million dollars to the National Head Start Association.
On Monday, a lack of funding because of the federal government shutdown closed programs like Metro Atlanta’s Butler Center Head Start in Gainesville.
According to WSB-TV, Hall County’s Head Start program was among 113 in Georgia forced to close its doors this week because of the shutdown.
In a statement released Monday by the National Head Start Association, Executive Director, Yasmina Vinci said, “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.” Vinci, applauding the couples readiness to be a solution providers said, “The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they 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.”
Local Head Start official Kay Law says thanks to the Arnolds, children are going to get back into the swing of the classroom, and parents will not need to scramble to find childcare.
When Head Start doors close, many low-income parents are forced must miss work. Their children can also miss nutritious meals, medical screenings and early learning opportunities that prepare children for kindergarten.
The 9th District for Opportunity centers are funded only by federal and Georgia Lottery dollars.
Law says, “Sometimes I think we forget when we're talking about programs that these programs affect individual lives."
As congressional gridlock, stemming from opposition over the already operating Affordable Health Care Plan, and the ongoing debate over the debt ceiling, moves into the eighth day, Head Start staff and the officials are realizing that they are not out of the woods yet. The Arnolds donation is only enough to take the at risk youth program, to the end of October. But without a federal budget agreement in Washington, the Head Start doors could close again.
At the end of the first week of the government shutdown, seven Head Start programs in six states (AL, CT, FL, GA, SC and MS) were closed, leaving 7,195 of our nation’s most vulnerable children without access to Head Start.
If the shutdown continues through October, more than 11,000 additional children risk losing access to comprehensive Head Start services. And, 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 funding.