Head Start: Dying On The Vine

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


head%20start.jpgWhen George W. Bush took office in 2001, he came in with grand plans for Head Start, the popular early childhood enrichment and education program for low-income kids. Bush talked about beefing up standards, improving teacher training and quality, and working hard to make sure low-income preschoolers were ready to hit the kindergarten playground running. Oh, and he also wanted to turn the program into a block grant, slash its budget, and force 3-year-olds to undergo standardized testing twice a year.

Consequently, it took Congress five years to reauthorize the program, a last vestige of the Great Society poverty programs. Members of Congress from both parties saved Head Start from the block grant, better known as a stealthy way to defund the program by turning it over to the states. And in December, Bush grudgingly signed the bill that officially killed off the misguided testing regime. But one part of Bush’s original ambitious plan for Head Start has actually succeeded: the budget cuts. It hasn’t come all at once, but through erosion.

The new omnibus budget bill, signed just two weeks after Head Start was reauthorized in December, would put the program’s budget at 12 percent below the funding level for 2002, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, mostly because Bush has failed to let Head Start funding keep up with inflation. The budget cuts translate into about 20,000 kids who may not have access to the program anymore. This is all happening at a time when child poverty is on the rise, and the number of poor kids under the age of 5 is increasing. Insert your own favorite “child left behind’ kicker here…

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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