News Releases

Senator Murray Helps Strengthen Head Start

Nov 14 2007

Murray includes provisions that will help homeless and foster children take advantage of critical school readiness program

Bill will now be sent to the President

(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped pass the final version of the Head Start for School Readiness Act that improves the vital early childhood development program that gives disadvantaged children a leg up at school. The bill passed the Senate today by a vote of 95-0 and will now go to the President for his signature.

The Head Start reauthorization bill builds on the program’s success by ensuring accountability, increasing access, expanding services, and incorporating parents as well as child and family agencies into the decision-making process. The bill also increases funding authorization for Head Start to:

  • $7.3 billion in 2008
  • $7.6 billion in 2009
  • $7.9 billion in 2010

"Today we approved Head Start legislation that will enable more kids to start school ready to learn than ever before. This bill provides a blueprint for success for the children who need it most. As a former pre-school teacher, I know first-hand that effective early learning can have an enormous impact on our children’s future."

Senator Murray also played a key role in shaping this bill as a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and served on the Conference Committee in charge of negotiating the final version of the bill.

Senator Murray worked particularly hard to include provisions to increase Head Start access for homeless and foster children.  The bill improves transportation for these children and places a priority on enrolling them.  Senator Murray also fought to increase the voices of parents in decision-making on local Head Start issues.

"I’m also pleased that this bill makes progress in improving access for homeless and foster students," said Senator Murray. "These children face enormous challenges from birth and their future success needs to be our immediate priority."

Listed below are some of the key provisions included in the bill:

Accountability

  • Dedicates $2 million in FY08 to Head Start agencies for local training and improvement efforts.
  • Reserves 40 percent of new Head Start funds for quality enhancements and salary increases for Head Start staff.
  •  Delineates a clear system of governance for Head Start programs including shared decision making between parent policy councils and governing boards.

Funding, Participation, and Enrollment

  • New flexibility enables Head Start programs to serve additional low income children and families (up to 130% of federal poverty; $26,800 for a family of four).
  • Reserves funding to expand Indian and Migrant Head Start.
  • Prioritizes homeless children for enrollment in Head Start, and improves transportation for such children to and from programs.
  • Enhances outreach to English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and their families.

School Readiness

  • Improves the transition of Head Start children to school and the alignment of curriculum to state early learning standards and kindergarten skills.
  • Terminates the flawed Head Start National Reporting System (Bush Administration national test of four and five year olds in Head Start).

Head Start teachers

  • Establishes new goals for the Head Start teaching workforce. 
  • Establishes new partnerships between Colleges and Universities to better prepare and increase the number of staff serving Native American, African American and Latino children. 

Coordination and Quality Across Early Education Programs

  • Creates a new State Advisory Council on Early Education and Care in each state to assess needs across programs serving children from 0-6 and develop recommendations
  •  New Early Education and Care federal incentive grants to states ($100 million, funds permitting) to promote the development and expansion of state early education systems.

Strengthens Early Head Start

  • Expands the Early Head Start program to serve an additional 8,000 low-income infants and toddlers.