Alyce Dillon remembers living in a public-housing project with three feet of raw sewage in the basement; she was on welfare, a high-school dropout and single mother in Minneapolis. But things changed in 1968 when she placed her son in Head Start, a federally funded education program for disadvantaged preschoolers. Because Head Start requires parent involvement, her son’s opportunity became one for her as well.

In 1969, Dillon helped found Parents In Community Action (PICA), a nonprofit that administers Minneapolis’s Head Start and other programs for low-income people. Dillon, who turns forty-nine in June, has garnered national recognition for her work as PICA’s executive director. Her success may be due to her inability to take “no” for an answer. “My mother used to say I never had proper respect for authority or never felt I couldn’t question those with authority,” she laughs.

Last year the once-adversarial Minneapolis school system appropriated $1.8 million to admit an additional 450 children into Head Start and provide added services for hundreds more. “That victory shows not only that we could do it, but that those who said we couldn’t have rallied around and helped us. That feels good.”

Dillon notes that without supplemental funding, many Head Start programs will suffer, losing good teachers because of poverty-level salaries. “Zookeepers make more money than teachers,” she says. “It has to do with the value our society places on children and women.”

Head Start is more important than ever. “More kids and families are falling into harder-edged poverty than what I faced,” Dillon says. But she’s optimistic that Bill Clinton will work toward solutions: “There’s a lot of rhetoric out there, but fortunately people who have his ear are now soliciting him on behalf of children.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.