Rahall Applauds Long-Overdue Reauthorization Of Head Start Program
Joining his colleagues in passing legislation aimed at enhancing one of the Nation's most prominent early education programs, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV, voted late Wednesday to expand and improve the successful Head Start program. This is the first time the program has been reauthorized in almost a decade.
"Head Start is providing an educational leg up to more than 7,000 young children in West Virginia, helping them to be better prepared for school," Rahall said. "This bill, a priority for the new Democratic Congress, will greatly assist the Head Start program in its mission to give young children a solid head start on the educational road to success."
H.R. 1429, the Improving Head Start Act of 2007, authorizes $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2008, including $450 million in new funding for Head Start. These monies will provide up to 10,000 more children than are currently enrolled nationwide with access to this vital early education program.
The bill aims to improve classroom and teacher quality, by requiring 50 percent of Head Start teachers across the country to have a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or a related field by 2013. It also provides for increased teacher salaries, an incentive for more talented educators to join, and remain in, the Head Start ranks.
In addition, the bill requires all Head Start programs to use research-based practices to support pre-literacy and vocabulary skills, and it improves professional development and classroom practices to better support children's cognitive, social, and emotional development. It also requires HHS to consult with experts to update the program's early learning standards, as necessary, by using the best available science.
Finally, the new bill provides for better accountability, ensuring that limited program dollars are devoted to quality services.
"No child should be denied a firm foundation for academic growth because their family lacks the resources to pay for private early education. Head Start not only helps children build an academic base for success, but it also lays a social foundation that children will carry with them throughout their lives," Rahall said. "This legislation will help this great program continue its proud record of success."
Research finds that children who attend Head Start enter school better prepared than low-income children who do not attend the program. The congressionally mandated Impact Study found that after less than one school year, Head Start narrowed the achievement gap by 45 percent in pre-reading and by 28 percent in pre-writing. Other research shows that Head Start students experience IQ gains and are less likely to need special education services, repeat a grade, or commit crimes in adolescence.