Head start programs that were closed or facing closure because of the government shutdown will remain open thanks to a $10 million donation from philanthropists Laura and John Arnold.
The couple gave the generous gift to the National Head Start Foundation, the organization announced on Monday in a press release. The money will help more than 7,000 at-risk students return to their classrooms. As of 2011, 29 percent of Head Start students are African-American, according to the organization.
“The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order,” said Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association.
The money could end up being a loan, said NHSA. “If after the government shutdown, the government provides Head Start programs funding sufficient to fund their operations for a 52-week period, Head Start programs will repay the funds made available by the National Head Start Association at no interest through the generosity of Laura and John Arnold,” an NHSA statement said.
Many low-income parents have to miss work and school to find alternative care for their young children when head start doors close. The program provides nutritious meals, medical screenings and early learning opportunities that will ready them for kindergarten.
Head Start programs were one of the many services impacted by the government's failure to pass a budget. Seven programs in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Massachusetts were closed by the end of the first week of the shutdown. More than 86,000 children in 41 states may lose access to Head Start services if the government does not reopen by Nov. 1.
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