By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, August 31, 2017, U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, D-Selma, sent an email to constituents where she praised the Head Start program and lamented proposed cuts to the program for impoverished children, including the closing of some Head Start Centers in rural Alabama.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell wrote, “You might know that Early Head Start has provided educational jumpstarts to children ages 0 to 3 in parts of our congressional district and has expanded those services to the Choctaw, Dallas, Marengo, and Wilcox County service area. The language-rich activities that Early Head Start provides, such as reading, singing, and talking, are proven to lead to better life outcomes. The addition of Early Head Start in these rural Alabama counties is a big step forward. “
Rep. Sewell continued, “Unfortunately, however, Head Start plans to close some centers serving 3-5 year olds in Choctaw, Dallas, Marengo, and Wilcox Counties. This means some families will need to drive more than 20 miles to the nearest facility for access to early childhood education. I’m a strong believer that all children, regardless of their zip code, deserve an education that gives them every chance at success. That’s why my office is working with the Office of Head Start, other Members of Congress, the state Pre-K office, and local groups to ensure that services will not be denied for eligible children and their families.”
The Head Start program was one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s (D) Great Society programs fifty-years ago that was supposed to end poverty. Head Start was supposed to eliminate the achievement gap between rich and poor children. The program was always controversial. Patrick Moynihan, who later went on to become a Senator, D-New York, authored a comprehensive study on the program that showed that while students who went through the program did have better skills than their first grade contemporaries, by the time students were in the fourth grade, there were no measurable advantages to having participated in the program.
That study has been repeated several times since with some studies showing that there are long lasting benefits to Head Start and some studies backing Moynihan’s claim that the program does not work. Certainly Johnson’s “War on Poverty” has largely not succeeded to this point in history, and there are still measurable differences in achievement between children reared in upper income homes and students who spent the whole of their lives in poverty, even with government programs to aid the poor.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District.