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Shuttered Head Start Centers to Reopen, Thanks to Philanthropists

By guest blogger Christina Samuels. Cross-posted from Early Years.

Houston-based philanthropists John and Laura Arnold have extended $10 million in emergency funding support to the National Head Start Association, which will in turn be used to reopen Head Start centers that closed, or were on the brink of closure, after the federal government shutdown cut off their funding. 

The federal budget impasse was expected to affect up to 19,000 children who are served by 23 Head Start grantees that receive their federal funding on Oct. 1. (There are about 1,600 Head Start grantees in all, and budget allocations are distributed throughout the calendar year.) Centers in six states—Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi—that together served about 7,000 children had to close immediately. Others had enough money to stay open for a short time, but were expected to close over the course of the month if the funding was not restored. If the government does not reopen by November 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. Territory stand to lose access to Head Start funding.

A press release from the National Head Start Association, an advocacy group representing Head Start providers, said that the Arnolds came forward and offered assistance. If the federal government restores Head Start programs funding sufficient to fund their operations for 52 weeks, the centers will repay the funds made available by the National Head Start Association at no interest.

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled the philanthropic efforts of the Arnolds. John Arnold, a hedge fund manager, amassed a $4 billion fortune over the past decade. He closed the fund in 2012 and the couple, through the Arnold Foundation, now dedicate most of their time to philanthropic pursuits in education, criminal justice, and public accountability.

"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, in a statement.

"The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children," the statement added.

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