President Obama submitted to Congress a FY 2013 federal budget proposal that includes $8 billion to fund Head Start and Early Head Start, which represents less than a half percent increase over the appropriation for the current FY 2012.
Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, said the funding level offers vulnerable, low-income preschoolers "a window of opportunity to set a course for lifelong success." But she added that that NHSA is "disappointed" that there was not more of an investment, despite the sluggish economy.
The federal Head Start program passed Congress in 1965.
"As many families continue to struggle with poverty, we are pleased that the President understands the critical importance of maintaining current services for our most at-risk children and families," Vinci added. "However, we are disappointed that there is not more of an investment in the quality improvements for which funding is so desperately needed across all Head Start and Early Head Start programs, old and new."
She said Congress faces a formidable task in finding consensus on FY2013 spending but that NHSA remained confident that the "window of opportunity" will remain open for approximately 1 million children served Head Start and Early Head Start programs nationwide.
"We hope [Congress] will consider the promising impact of additional funding for the quality improvements that will enable Head Start and Early Head Start to better address the intense needs of our most vulnerable children and families," Vinci said. "By demonstrating a strong commitment to Head Start and Early Head Start, Congress can alter the life course of at-risk children and families and be a critical part of placing them on a proven pathway to success."