Couple Donates $10 Million to Head Start Foundation

WOODBOURNE, NY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Jiovani, 3, eats breakfast at the federally-funded Head Start Program school on September 20, 2012 in Woodbourne, New York. The school provides early education, nutrition and health services to 311 children from birth through age 5 from low-income families in Sullivan County, one of the poorest counties in the state of New York. The children receive 2/3 of their daily nutritional needs through meals, which include breakfast, lunch and snack, that are prepared at the school and served family-style in classrooms. The county Head Start program was expanded with a $1 million grant from President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Head Start, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the longest-running early education program for children of low-income families in the United States.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Couple Donates $10 Million to Head Start Foundation

Head start programs threatened by the government shutdown will remain open thanks to a $10 million donation from philanthropists Laura and John Arnold.

Published October 8, 2013

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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(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Written by Natelege Whaley

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