Washington, PA- With the start of the school year around the corner, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called for an end to the Head Start opportunity gap that keeps thousands of eligible children from receiving vital early learning opportunities due to lack of funding. The most recent data shows only 10% of eligible Pennsylvania children up to three years old are able to attend Head Start, which is generally due to lack of funding. Casey, joined by educators from the region, called on Congress to invest in Head Start so that all eligible children can have an opportunity to attend. Since sequestration, over $375 million was cut from Head Start. This translates to over 52,000 American children unserved.
“Head Start is one of America’s essential early childhood programs that provides families with high quality early learning experiences to educate the whole child,” Senator Casey said. “Unfortunately, not all Head Start eligible children in Pennsylvania are being served by this great program because of a lack of government funding. I am calling on Congress to appropriate more funds for Head Start so all eligible kids are served.”
Head Start Eligibility
Head Start eligibility is determined through a variety of factors: families with income at or below the poverty line, children from homeless families, families receiving TANF or SSI, foster children, and families with disabled children are all eligible. If a Head Start agency ensures it is meeting the needs of all children in those categories, then it can also serve children whose families have incomes below 130% of the poverty line. In order to be placed on a Head Start waitlist, families must fill out the entire application and complete the Application Eligibility Review. According to Head Start staff, need for slots varies widely by county, and the size of a Head Start waitlist can depend on the strategy of that particular Head Start center.