Head Start: Beyond 50 Years

Blanca Enriquez

By Dr. Blanca Enriquez

I love celebrating birthdays! Birthdays provide a chance to reflect on past accomplishments and to focus on new opportunities and growth. May 18 is often thought of as Head Start's birthday, since it was on this day in 1965 that President Lyndon B. Johnson officially announced Project Head Start from the White House Rose Garden. Since then, we've established an impressive history as a national leader in early childhood development and education. We've also expanded our services to migrant and seasonal families, tribal communities, infants and toddlers, and pregnant women.

Head Start's mission has always been to prepare children for kindergarten. We do this by collaborating with community partners, involving parents in program governance, and ensuring the families we serve receive high-quality comprehensive services. I am thrilled our mission continues to be a central part of this administration's efforts to ensure children have access to high-quality early learning opportunities. As always, I look forward to what the next year has in store.

Toddler playing with a doll

In the fiscal year 2017 budget, President Obama proposed $9.6 billion for Head Start programs. Out of that, $292 million in new money would go towards the continued expansion of the number of children who receive full school day and full school year services. This funding, along with the supplemental funding we announced in April to extend the duration of services, would mean we could offer a full school day and full school year program to more than half of all Head Start children.

President Obama also has proposed $645 million to continue expanding Early Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. These partnerships allow local Early Head Start grantees to join with child care providers to ensure infants and toddlers receive high-quality early care and education. Providing comprehensive services to children and their families is what sets Head Start apart from many other early childhood education programs, and I'm pleased that we can share what we do with our child care partners.

Girl with magnifying glass

I am also excited about the impending release of our new Head Start Program Performance Standards—standards first published in the 1970s and last revised in 1998. Last year, when we published a notice of proposed rule making, we had two overarching goals: to simplify and streamline program performance standards to improve transparency and implementation, and to improve program quality. We considered the great feedback we received from you and we believe we have met those goals. We anticipate our new Program Performance Standards will be released this summer.

The cornerstones of Head Start, along with the comprehensive nature of the Performance Standards, are hallmarks of high quality. But it's all of you who bring the program to life on a daily basis. You are vital to the Head Start mission, but more importantly you are critical to the children and families within your local communities. I hope you use every May 18 as a time to reflect on the ways your program can continue to grow, learn, and improve.

Happy birthday, Head Start!

Dr. Blanca Enriquez is the Director at the Office of Head Start.

Head Start: Beyond 50 Years. OHS/ACF/HHS. 2016. English.

Last Reviewed: May 2016

Last Updated: May 17, 2016