Most people agree that early education produces the best results. Therefore, news that Erie County’s largest Head Start administrator has gotten the boost it needs to maintain all of its programs this year is to be celebrated.
As reported in The News, the federal government restored millions of dollars that had been cut in the sequester last year. Even better, this year’s grant even increased the funding by 3 percent.
Last week, the Community Action Organization of Erie County was awarded $13.66 million, which will be added to $7.36 million authorized earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Because of this welcome largess, the nonprofit group will continue to operate Head Start programs at 29 locations in Buffalo and Erie County.
The grant was announced by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and CAO President and CEO L. Nathan Hare.
The enthusiasm shown by both men and those who will be able to administer such important programming is well-placed. While there are some people out there who would like to argue that all the talk about early education is overblown, study after study shows that when children are exposed to the basics early in life, they will do better when they reach primary school.
The building blocks of learning must be put in place early on, and programs such as Head Start are key to that effort. Other programs, including Read to Succeed, provide the support children need that will carry them throughout their educational careers.
This is why the automatic federal spending cuts mandated in 2013, when Congress failed to agree on a budget, were so destructive. That action cut 57,000 children from Head Start programs nationwide, about 100 of them in programs in Erie County. The new share of funding will restore programs that should not have been cut in the first place.
There has been an important focus recently on early childhood education, which provides a solid base to prepare children for eventual college or vocational education. There is a direct link between the early childhood education programs and prekindergarten instruction provided to more than 2,100 children by Head Start with the Say Yes to Education effort in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Hare put it best when he said that there is a historic opportunity in the City of Buffalo. The transformation of Buffalo into a city in which many of its children continue on to college is possible. To get there, the work has to start as early as possible.