Lady Bird Johnson visiting one of the first Head Start programs in 1966. (National Archives, White House Photo Office Collection)
More than $2 billion in Recovery funds allocated for Head Start and Early Head Start allowed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reach an additional 61,000 children and families – 6,000 more than originally anticipated – beyond the one million children and families the programs normally serve every year.
The Recovery Act earmarked $1 billion for Head Start and $1.1 billion for Early Head Start. Together, the two federal programs promote school readiness for kids age five and under from low-income families. Both programs focus on language, literacy, and general knowledge skills as well as enhancing physical health and social/emotional development.
In addition to funding those goals, the Recovery money allowed the two programs to:
- Increase staff salaries,
- Improve staff training,
- Upgrade Head Start centers and classrooms,
- Increase hours of operation, and
- Enhance transportation services.
All $2.1 billion has been paid out, distributed among each of the 50 states (including Native American tribal nations), six territories, and the District of Columbia.
Head Start was established in 1965 for eligible four- and five-year-old preschoolers and their families. The program has enrolled more than 25 million children since its inception. Early Head Start was established in 1995 for children three and under and pregnant women because of scientific evidence that a child’s earliest years are extremely important to healthy development.
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