Magazine article American Libraries

Grassroots Report: Head Start, Part 2: Budgeting. (Literacy)

Magazine article American Libraries

Grassroots Report: Head Start, Part 2: Budgeting. (Literacy)

Article excerpt

Budgets. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. There's a lot of talk about budgets these days, at many different levels. Library budgets are getting cut; the federal budget is running a major deficit. The federal Head Start program may take a hit (AL, May, p. 69).

Art Rolnick, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, is the kind of guy you might expect to know a lot about budgets, and he does. But if you ask him what we should be spending our money on, you might be surprised at the answer.

"Early childhood development programs are rarely portrayed as economic development initiatives, and we think that is a mistake," Rolnick wrote in the March 2003 issue of the bank's FedGazette. "Such programs, if they appear at all, are at the bottom of the economic development lists for state and local governments. They should be at the top."

Rolnick uses an economist's measures--such as cost-benefits ratios and internal rates of return--to document the positive and enduring effects of early childhood education programs, including Head Start, and goes on to argue for a one-time $ 1.5billion investment of combined public and private funds to fully meet the needs of 3- and 4-year-olds living in poverty in the state of Minnesota. The funds would be used to establish an endowment yielding $105 million in annual earnings. Currently, fewer than 50% of eligible children and families in the state are able to participate in Head Start due to lack of funding, with the percentages much lower in high-poverty areas.

Another articulate proponent of Head Start's benefits is John Sugimura, program manager at Hennepin County (Minn.) Library. Before joining HCL in 2002, Sugimura worked directly with local Head Start organizations, as well as serving as assistant to the mayor of Minneapolis. For more than 10 years, Sugimura has watched Head Start and libraries take it on the chin and come out swinging. The reason partnerships between the library and Head Start in Hennepin have been so successful, according to Sugimura, is that both sides "get it."

"Head Start is about increasing the chances of success for the poorest of the poor," said Sugimura. "For 37 years, it has had the same mission and goals--reduce the impact of poverty. Head Start is a community, and as a community, it has jumped through every political hoop and survived every threat. …

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