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Congressman Cole Votes to Give Children a Head Start

July 25, 2003
Press Release

Washington D.C. – To expand the education opportunities for disadvantaged children, Oklahoma's Tom Cole voted to make specific improvements to the Head Start program giving the children enrolled in it the ability to compete academically with their peers. The School Readiness Act of 2003 passed the U.S. House, 217-216.

"We are in the perfecting business. If there is an opportunity to take a good program and make it better, I think we should take it. If these improvements will give children more opportunities to break out of the poverty cycle, I think we should make them," Congressman Cole said.

"Children enrolled in Head Start are learning and while they are making progress, they are still lagging behind the national average and are entering kindergarten without the academic knowledge levels that are indicators of continued success in school. We must close this readiness gap," Congressman Cole said.  

To close the readiness gap and strengthen Head Start the School Readiness Act would:

  • Emphasize “what works” in preparing disadvantaged children for school.  The proposal would strengthen Head Start’s academic standards by emphasizing cognitive development and the results of scientifically-based research in topics critical to children’s school readiness (including language, pre-reading, pre-mathematics, and English language acquisition). 
  • Improve teacher quality in Head Start.  The bill would ensure that a greater number of Head Start teachers are adequately trained and educated in early childhood development, particularly in teaching the fundamental skills of language, pre-reading, and pre-mathematics.
  • Shield Head Start and other early childhood education programs against state budget cuts.  The bill would effectively “wall off” early childhood education funding in states that choose to participate in the state demonstration program.  Under the bill, a state would be required to match fifty percent of the federal Head Start investment with state money in order to be eligible for the state demonstration project. 
  • Increase Head Start funding.  The bill would authorize a $202 million increase in funding for Head Start – to $6.87 billion, meaning Head Start funding will have nearly doubled in the past seven years. 
  • Preserve all current health and nutrition services for Head Start children.  While the academic components of Head Start would be strengthened, all existing health and nutrition-related components of Head Start would be preserved and extended.