Spotlight Exclusives

Congress Must Oppose Cuts to Early Education Programs Because All Children Deserve a Strong Start in Life

Mark K. Shriver, Save the Children Action Network Mark K. Shriver, Save the Children Action Network, posted on

As my friend and Save the Children Trustee Jennifer Garner recently told a Congressional committee, poverty is silent. Its effects are far reaching and carry many negative repercussions to a person and community.

By age five, a child’s brain is almost completely developed—yet two out of five American kids are not enrolled in preschool. By age four, a child living in poverty is 18 months behind developmentally. Many never catch up.

We know investing in early childhood education is the most effective way to break the cycle of poverty. Children who attend high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to succeed in school, graduate college, and earn a high salary.

In fact, a December 2016 report from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows the rate of annual return on investments in early childhood development for many children can be 13 percent, due to improved outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity, and reduced crime.

Despite this, President Trump’s recently released “skinny budget” does not prioritize kids and families living in poverty around the world.

While the president’s budget request does not mention Head Start or the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) specifically, it slashes funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency that funds these programs, by 18 percent. This could lead to fewer children having access to high-quality early learning programs.

This is unacceptable, especially because the existing support for these programs is already inadequate. Right now, only five percent of eligible children are served by Early Head Start, 15 percent by CCDBG, and less than 45 percent of eligible children participate in Head Start programs.

Not only do kids and families benefit from Head Start, CCDBG-funded child care programs, and home visiting models, our nation gains a more skilled and prepared workforce better able to compete in the increasingly global economy. Early learning programs also provide parents with the peace of mind of knowing they can re-enter the workforce while their children are in a safe and nurturing child care environment.

According to a new poll commissioned by my organization, Save the Children Action Network, cuts to Head Start is not what voters said they wanted when they elected Donald Trump president last fall.

I understand the current budget climate in our country, but the positive impact home-visiting and early learning programs like Save the Children’s have on the lives of mothers and children living in dire circumstances is too large to ignore. These programs change lives.

As Jennifer and I have told governors and members of Congress who we’ve spoken with recently, we must support these programs, and others such as Preschool Development Grants, which helps states improve the quality of and access to preschool.

In this time of budget constraints, it’s critical that kids living in poverty don’t lose out. I urge Congress to oppose cuts to kids’ education programs because all children deserve a strong start in life.

Mark K. Shriver is President of Save the Children Action Network.

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