Husband and wife philanthropists John and Laura Arnold donated $10 million last week to the National Head Start Association to help keep open local agencies that were forced to close or faced that possibility after the federal government shutdown.
"For nearly fifty years, Head Start has been the window of opportunity for more than 27 million of our nation's poorest children as they embark on their journey to achieve the American Dream," said Yasmina Vinci, NHSA executive director. "The Arnolds' most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation's fiscal house in order."
NHSA said Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi were forced to close, leaving 7,195 low-income preschoolers unable to access services. The government shutdown also threatened another 11,000 student, if the shutdown continues through the month, added NHSA. The programs have been allocated federal money but were unable to access.
The House was expected to approve to an 11th hour Senate vote to fund the federal government and raise the debt ceiling before defaulting on loans, which would have occurred by the end of Thursday. But the deal only funds the government through Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, reports CNN, which requires more budget negotiations in Congreses. The Los Angeles Times reported by 10:15 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday that the House approved the Senate's bill and President Obama was expected to sign it Thursday.
When Head Start doors close, many low-income parents must miss work and school as they scramble to find alternative child care, NHSA said in a statement. They rely on Head Start to provide nutritious meals, medical screenings and early learning opportunities to prepare their children for kindergarten. If the government did not reopen by Nov. 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. Territory stood to lose access to Head Start funding.
NHSA said the Arnolds stepped forward with their personal donation after learning about the effect of the government shutdown on Head Start services nationwide. If after the government shutdown, the government provides Head Start programs funding sufficient to fund their operations for a fifty-two week period, Head Start programs will repay the funds made available by NHSA at no interest.
An NHSA spokeswoman said was unsure how the funds assisted transportation other than keeping the agencies in operation during the shutdown.
"The entire Head Start community and the at-risk children we serve are tremendously grateful to the Arnolds for their compassion and generosity," Vinci added. "The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children. Our elected officials simply must find a fiscal solution that protects, preserves and promotes the promise that quality early learning opportunities like Head Start offer to nearly one million at-risk children each year."
The Arnolds also started the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2008 with the goal of producing "substantial, widespread and lasting reforms that will maximize opportunities and minimize injustice in our society." Laura is an attorney and former oil company executive and John is an investor reportedly worth billions after retiring in May 2012 from his firm, Centaurus Advisors, LLC, a Houston-based hedge fund that specialized in trading energy products.
In addition to K-12 education iniaitives, the couple seeks to help reduce crime, increase public accountability and improve the reliability and validity of scientific research.