Head Start Program Facts
Fiscal Year 2015

Established in 1965, Head Start promotes school readiness for children in low-income families by offering educational, nutritional, health, social, and other services. Since its inception, Head Start has served more than 33 million children, birth to age 5, and their families. In 2015, Head Start was funded to serve nearly one million children and pregnant women in centers, family homes, and in family child care homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout the nation. (More on Head Start)

See PDF version: Head Start Program Facts Fiscal Year 2015

Terms

Throughout this fact sheet, unless otherwise specified, the term "Head Start" refers to the Head Start program as a whole, including: Head Start services to preschool children; Early Head Start (EHS) services to infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; services to families by American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) programs; and services to families by Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs.

The term "funded enrollment" refers to the number of children and pregnant women that are supported by federal Head Start funds in a program at any one time during the program year; these are sometimes referred to as enrollment slots. Funded enrollment numbers include enrollment slots funded by state or other funds when used by grantees as required nonfederal match. States may provide additional funding to local Head Start programs, which is not included in federal Head Start reporting.

The term "cumulative enrollment" refers to the actual number of children and pregnant women that Head Start programs serve throughout the entire program year, inclusive of enrollees who left during the program year and the enrollees who filled those empty places. Due to turnover, more children and families may receive Head Start services cumulatively throughout the program year, all of whom are reported in the Program Information Report (PIR), than indicated by the funded enrollment numbers.

Federal Funding

The Congress of the United States authorizes the amount of federal spending for Head Start each year. The Head Start program is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Federal grants are awarded directly to public agencies, private nonprofit and for-profit organizations, tribal governments, and school systems for the purpose of operating Head Start programs in local communities.

Head Start Federal Funding
Local Head Start Projects Appropriation
States and Territories $7,233,541,000
American Indian and Alaska Native, and
Migrant and Seasonal Programs
$554,883,000
Subtotal $7,788,424,000
Support Activities  
Training and Technical Assistance $203,322,000
Research, Demonstration, and Evaluation $20,000,000
Monitoring Support $42,000,000
Program Support $19,349,000
Transition Funding for Designation Renewal System (DRS)1 $25,000,000
Subtotal $309,671,000
Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships2 $500,000,000
TOTAL $8,598,095,000

1The Transition Funding for Designation Renewal System refers to funds available to minimize any disruption in services when there is a change in provider as a result of the DRS.

2The FY 2015 appropriation continued to include the $500 million initially appropriated in FY 2014 to expand access to high-quality early learning and development opportunities for infants and toddlers through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. Funds were to be obligated by March 31, 2016.

Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment by State

The Head Start program serves children, families, and pregnant women in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six territories. The table in this section presents the total allocations and funded enrollment of Head Start programs in each state and territory.

American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) funding is awarded to AIAN tribal governments. AIAN programs operate in 26 states, and in some cases their services cross state lines. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) funding and funded enrollment are shown as one total, as this program supports children and families who receive services in various states during the year. Thus, federal funding and funded enrollment for these services cannot simply be attributed to individual states.

Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment by State
STATE/TERRITORY FEDERAL FUNDING
by State/Territory
FUNDED ENROLLMENT
by State/Territory
FEDERAL FUNDING
for AIAN1
FUNDED ENROLLMENT
for AIAN1
Alabama $133,689,882 17,532    
Alaska $14,697,027 1,593 $23,934,206 1,805
Arizona $131,546,248 14,413 $39,984,763 3,905
Arkansas $81,496,636 10,273    
California $1,039,415,453 102,728 $10,360,137 799
Colorado $88,256,495 10,945 $2,339,603 191
Connecticut $67,254,862 6,495    
Delaware $16,305,939 2,281    
District of Columbia $28,020,388 3,306    
Florida $345,209,484 39,668    
Georgia $217,928,237 25,205    
Hawaii $27,260,269 3,217    
Idaho $27,906,313 3,182 $3,592,085 319
Illinois $336,043,938 41,188    
Indiana $123,000,650 15,310    
Iowa $62,633,575 7,756    
Kansas $62,945,976 8,356 $1,090,092 84
Kentucky $136,136,445 16,961    
Louisiana $174,153,534 21,655    
Maine $33,851,143 3,243 $756,007 60
Maryland $94,632,101 10,426    
Massachusetts $130,475,615 12,627    
Michigan $284,964,075 32,662 $6,985,596 596
Minnesota $91,473,725 11,459 $11,066,632 964
Mississippi $195,189,104 26,474 $2,245,204 268
Missouri $150,433,720 16,919    
Montana $26,537,570 3,193 $17,322,460 1,790
Nebraska $46,654,413 5,334 $3,150,851 298
Nevada $33,442,154 3,128 $3,560,844 362
New Hampshire $16,527,565 1,686    
New Jersey $156,887,641 16,021    
New Mexico $65,502,509 7,851 $17,065,046 1,713
New York $527,069,097 50,987 $1,308,751 143
North Carolina $190,807,543 21,800 $2,820,606 230
North Dakota $21,282,228 2,442 $10,097,931 1,000
Ohio $309,427,962 37,128    
Oklahoma $107,630,356 14,641 $26,710,382 2,960
Oregon $78,684,207 13,149 $3,682,046 400
Pennsylvania $286,559,676 36,605    
Rhode Island $27,335,605 2,893    
South Carolina $110,668,372 13,464 $942,768 80
South Dakota $22,844,310 2,912 $17,811,965 1,778
Tennessee $148,440,179 17,750    
Texas $604,774,593 73,202 $439,996 34
Utah $51,029,723 6,343 $1,887,754 215
Vermont $16,536,670 1,503    
Virginia $124,211,408 14,427    
Washington $129,467,147 12,370 $14,842,230 1,439
West Virginia $62,577,957 8,138    
Wisconsin $114,647,779 14,557 $10,479,629 1,032
Wyoming $14,479,234 1,724 $2,830,274 295
Subtotal States: $7,388,946,732 849,122    
Subtotal
Indian Tribes:
    $237,307,858 22,760
MSHS $353,751,876 32,101    
American Samoa $2,317,881 1,332  
Guam $2,537,054 534  
No. Marianas $2,714,247 542  
Palau $1,437,508 400  
Puerto Rico $286,890,161 36,776  
Virgin Islands $9,641,053 1,014  
       
TOTAL $8,285,544,370 944,581  

1AIAN funding is awarded to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes. For reference, the funding and enrollment has been split out by the state in which the Tribe is headquartered. Some Tribes serve children across state lines.

Program Year Statistics

Each year, Head Start programs are required to submit PIRs on the services they have provided to children and families throughout the program year, including child, family, and staff demographics and program characteristics.

For a copy of the PIR form, detailed reports, and data sets for the 2015 PIR and prior years, and for further information, please visit: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/pir.

Program Characteristics:

  • Forty-one percent of grantees operated Head Start preschool services only
  • Fourteen percent of grantees operated EHS services only
  • Forty-five percent of grantees operated both Head Start and Early Head Start services

Most Head Start preschool services were provided in center-based settings that, based on local design, vary in the number of days per week and hours per day classes are in session. About half of EHS services were provided in center-based settings, and half were offered in home-based program settings.

Pie chart of preschool program options Pie chart of program options

 

Child and Family Demographics:

Head Start programs cumulatively served 1,100,000 children ages birth to 5 and pregnant women throughout the 2014–15 program year.

Pie chart for cumulative Enrollment by age 2014

Head Start served a diverse group of children, families, and pregnant women. Thirty-eight percent identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino, and almost 29 percent were Black/African American.

Families were asked to self-identify both an ethnicity and a race category based on U.S. Census Bureau measures. For example, a family that identifies their child as Black and Cuban was counted in the "Black or African American" race category for the race question and counted in the "Hispanic or Latino" category for the separate question on ethnicity.

2014 race ethnicity statistical data

Twenty-nine percent of participants were from families that primarily spoke a language other than English at home. Nearly 25 percent of participants were from families that primarily spoke Spanish at home.

Services to Children and Families:

Head Start programs work with families to help ensure children have access to needed services and resources. The number of children who received immunizations increased from the beginning of the program year to the end of the program year. Also, more families had health insurance and medical and dental homes for their children at the end of the 2014-15 program year than at the beginning.

2014 children's health measures

Head Start programs work with families to ensure they have the means to obtain health insurance, services for children with disabilities, adequate housing, job training, and more. In fiscal year (FY) 2015:

  • Most children had public health insurance. At the end of the program year, 89 percent of children were enrolled in Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or a state-funded child health insurance program.
  • Twelve percent of Head Start cumulative enrollment was made up of children with disabilities, defined as children having special plans under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In comparison, nationally, about three percent of infants and toddlers and six percent of preschool-age children have identified disabilities. Head Start serves a greater percentage of children with disabilities than found in the overall population.
  • Among pregnant women enrolled in EHS, approximately 90 percent received prenatal education on fetal development and 20 percent had medically high risk pregnancies.
  • Head Start served about 1,007,000 families cumulatively throughout the program year. The number of families served is a little less than the number of participants served, since some families have more than one child enrolled.
  • Approximately 47,000 families served during the enrollment year experienced homelessness. Of those families, 33 percent found housing during the program year. Nearly 86,000 Head Start families received housing assistance such as subsidies, utilities, and repairs.
  • Approximately 207,000 families, or 21 percent, received services related to job training and adult education such as general education development (GED) programs and college selection.

Program Staff:

Head Start programs employed and contracted with 243,000 staff. Parents of current or former Head Start children made up 24 percent of Head Start staff.

  • More than 1.1 million adults volunteered in their local Head Start program. Of these, 782,000 were parents of Head Start children.
  • About 120,000 staff members provided child development services to children, including teachers, assistant teachers, home visitors, and family child care providers.
  • Among child development staff, 30 percent were proficient in a language other than English.
  • Seventy-three percent of all Head Start center-based preschool teachers had a baccalaureate degree or higher in early childhood education, or in a related field with experience. The Head Start Act specifies that 50 percent of center-based preschool teachers nationwide should have had these credentials by 2013.
Chart for 2015 Center-Based Preschool Teachers' Degrees

Head Start Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment History

The graphs and tables below depict the last 50 years of Head Start federal funding and funded enrollment history.

Chart detailing 50 Years of Head Start Appropriation dollars beginning in 1965 Chart detailing 50 Years of Head Start Enrollment numbers beginning in 1965

Head Start Enrollment and Appropriations History

Year Federal Funding Funded Enrollment
1965 (summer only) $96,400,000 561,000
1966 198,900,000 733,000
1967 349,200,000 681,400
1968 316,200,000 693,900
1969 333,900,000 663,600
1970 325,700,000 477,400
1971 360,000,000 397,500
1972 376,300,000 379,000
1973 400,700,000 379,000
1974 403,900,000 352,800
1975 403,900,000 349,000
1976 441,000,000 349,000
1977 475,000,000 333,000
1978 625,000,000 391,400
1979 680,000,000 387,500
1980 735,000,000 376,300
1981 818,700,000 387,300
1982 911,700,000 395,800
1983 912,000,000 414,950
1984 995,750,000 442,140
1985 1,075,059,000 452,080
1986 1,040,315,000 451,732
1987 1,130,542,000 446,523
1988 1,206,324,000 448,464
1989 1,235,000,000 450,970
1990 1,552,000,000 540,930
1991 1,951,800,000 583,471
1992 2,201,800,000 621,078
1993 2,776,286,000 713,903
1994 3,325,728,000 740,493
1995 3,534,128,000 750,696
1996 3,569,329,000 752,077
1997 3,980,546,000 793,809
1998 4,347,433,000 822,316
1999 4,658,151,000 826,016
2000 5,267,000,000 857,664
2001 6,199,123,000 905,235
2002 6,536,570,000 912,345
2003 6,667,533,000 909,608
2004 6,774,848,000 905,851
2005 6,843,114,000 906,993
2006* 6,782,062,000 909,201
2007 6,888,571,000 908,412
2008 6,877,975,000 906,992
2009 7,112,786,000 904,153
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2,100,000,000 61,078
2010 7,234,783,000 904,118
2011* 7,559,633,000 964,430
2012 7,968,544,000 956,497
2013 7,573,095,000 903,679
2014 8,598,095,000 927,275
2015 8,285,544,370 944,581

*Note: The federal funding amounts for 2006 and 2011 above are correct. Previously published tables erroneously contained slightly different figures in those two years.

Last Reviewed: February 2017

Last Updated: February 8, 2017