Letters to the Editor

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HEAD START: Program helps kids succeed

Letter by Randi Holli Omat, Tacoma on Feb. 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm with 44 Comments »
February 17, 2011 2:56 pm

I am 14 years old and in ninth grade at Franklin Pierce High School.

When I was 4, I went to Head Start. I feel the Head Start program has greatly helped me in school. In kindergarten I remember being able to do ABCs, numbers and color games; my friend, who didn’t go to Head Start, could not.

I am in the honors program and play soccer. I have decided I want to be a lawyer and help kids. I am going to do the Running Start program in a year. Besides helping me with education, Head Start has helped my socialization skills. I am still friends with a girl who was in Head Start with me.

I feel that without Head Start, I would not be going in the direction I am. Many kids in my school struggle with the work they are assigned, and I know they didn’t go through Head Start.

Even at my age I can see that Head Start is such a valuable program. Please help to make sure that Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Programs (ECEAP) continue to be funded.

Leave a comment Comments → 44
  1. Randi, Head Start is the most successful government program ever. Good for you for speaking out!

  2. Thank you for a thoughtful letter outlining your own experience. Your intellignece and writing ability is impressive. There might be others on these comments who have a different opinion about Head Start, but no one can ever take away from you what you have done and what you will do with the opportunities you have been given.

    Good luck in the future and keep up the hard work.

  3. Randi, good, articulate, letter from what appears to be someone who has took full benefit of the education that so far has been provided you.

    Not so much to deny the value of Head Start, but my opinion is to insure all government entitlement programs are funded accorded to the means we have to allocate to them. As I believe much of Head Start is Federally funded, it is therefore a program that is supported by an entity that doesn’t exist in the real world of a balanced checkbooks. In other words, if we were talking about the real world where there are hard choices of what we can afford , Head Start would get what we can afford, along side roads and infrastructure, law enforcement, prisons, mass transit, higher education, public schools, etc – no more or no less.

    Hopefully (but largely because of the recession we are in) we can get our state/county/local officials to see this reality. However, since the Federal budget may never operate in this way (as they can continue racking up debt and simply print more money), I don’t foresee Head Start taking as hard a hit as other government programs – or even other education programs (public schools and higher education). Moreover, Head Start funding doesn’t have to face a ballot initiative like the Pierce County Transit did recently.

    Finally, at the risk of being seen as too un-PC, I would think it would be an interesting exercise to see how many of the Crips currently behind bars were also beneficiaries of Head Start. Not to denigrate your efforts to take full benefit of this program, but rather to put it into the proper light where entitlement programs are not nearly successful as their liberal proponents loudly profess from the rooftops every chance they get.

  4. As usual for you Sue – quite a bit of overstated hubris. Neither your opinion or mine are facts – but when challenged for them to back up my opinion then I either do my best to state the facts as I see them, or excuse myself for an overstated opinion and leave it as that.

    So do you have facts to back you up on this sue?

  5. Good letter, Randi.

    It’s easy to see who had the advantage of Head Start and who didn’t.

  6. not so fast there Polago….

    Unless you can confirm that none of the Crips ever attended……

  7. cclngthr says:

    Not all low income people attend Head Start. Maybe 1/4th of them do. Income verifications must be done to qualify; and we don’t know what the income of the families of the Hilltop gang members was at the time.

    Head Start is funded through the US Dept of Health and Human Services and schools receive grants to operate the program.

    I also went through the program, and the only reason I did was it was an experiment to see if the program could accept people with disabilities. I got to be the first disabled person to attend a head start program.

  8. ccingthr,

    I never said anything about the relationship of Head Start to low income people – just that it shouldn’t be touted as something akin to a cure all for our social ills. But I would hazard a guess that a majority of those who attend do fall beneath some income threshold. As far as Crips, well not really concerned about their current income level, but if they were raised on public assistance I would hazard a guess that they did attend Head Start.

    But you did reinforce my reply that since it is largely a Federally funded program, the writer’s plea would be better addressed to our Congressional Delegation – and given their political leanings I can assure the letter writer that there is very little to worry about – as opposed to more local funding of public schools and higher education.

  9. Seems to me I read something a few years back that the benefits of Head Start are pretty much gone by 4th grade. I don’t know where I read it or I would cite my source. Glad to hear Randi was an exception.

  10. … define “successful”.

    I anticipate interesting answers from both flanks…

  11. cclngthr says:

    In order to qualify to attend Head Start, the student and family must be within the federal income guidelines, on public assistance, or foster care. However this is not a total guarantee that they will go to Head Start. ECEAP is a state funded program. Both ECEAP and Head Start work in conjunction with each other. Both operate in a preschool type of program, but get funds through different sources. Head Start is mainly for low income kids, and within that program is Early Head Start, which is designed for infants/toddlers, Migrant/Seasonal Head Start, which is designed for migrant families and Tribal Head Start, which is operated within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    Its intent is to reach those kids in that group to assist them in getting them ready for Kindergarten. However, with Kindergarten now including what was taught in first grade when the program started, what is taught in Head Start is not aligned to what is now required of kindergarteners. There is a widening gap between the Head Start and Kindergarten.

    When I went to Head Start, the directors in the district was trying to see if disabled kids were able to do what was taught.

    The FPSD Head Start is in the East Campus of PLU, which PLU School of Education is a part of. Tacoma Schools Head Start programs are at 17 schools and at Madison ES (where the Head Start offices are at). Pierce College has its own Head Start program at the Children’s Center ECE department. The DOC has one at Purdy in the section where the women do have their young children living with them at the prison.

  12. The Head Start program has had some great successes and some notable problems. The GAO, in an extensive review demanded by Congress in 1998, published its results in 2005. It found significant improvement for those in programs that were well-monitored and well-run, with long term benefits, especially in terms of college attendance as compared to students not enrolled in Head Start wth similar backgrounds. Because of local variations and lack of oversight in some programs, benefits were negligible in poorly run programs. A few programs run by churches were even found to be mainly for religious indoctrination.

    Ronview, some studies did find that there was a “fade” in benefits as early as the 3rd and 4th grades if the student went from Head Start to poorly performing schools and the student did not participate in continued tutoring or enrichment programs, or these were not available. Those who went to schools that were considered high achieving were able to master the challenges at those schools better than their peers who had not attended Head Start.

    The 2005 GAO Report on Head Start is on line and makes interesting, if tedious reading. It did point out that fiscal monitoring at the Federal level of the program was very slack in general, but especially during the 2000-2005 period (with some critics saying it was due to political appointees who were placed into oversight positions with no qualifications). The GAO recommended some major strengthening of Federal oversight, but these had not been implemented by the time a followup study was published in early 2008, and money for Head Start was still being awarded to programs that did not meet eligibility guidelines and reports from programs were not being monitored for accuracy. The amount of Federal oversight is a contentious political issue, with conservatives saying that it is a state and local responsibility to provide necessary oversight, and not the role of Federal Government to get involved in education except to provide the funds.

    As far as income eligibility, only 10% of participants may have income higher than the poverty-level guidelines.

  13. frankiethomas says:

    I applaud the lettter writer and her family! Recent studies have shown that most children in poverty will NOT fare as well as their higher-income peers even if given the same educational opportunities without offering educational support to THE PARENTS. Education starts at home and must be supported throughout a child’s school years. Interesting reading –


  14. blakeshouse says:

    Funny….. By the time I started kindergarten I not only knew my ABC’s but could count to 100 and read also. I am in my mid 50’s so this was a time well before Head Start was even a concept. About 1/2 of my class could do at least part of what I was able to also. Head Start is a fairly successful program but a much more successful way is parental involvement

  15. JudasEscargot says:

    northsc has straightened us all out. We can’t afford to invest in our children. So much for the “greatest nation in the world” title.

    Blakes – parental involvement is important. When you were a child you probably didn’t have two parents working outside the home just to be able to feed and clothe the family.

  16. JudasEscargot says:

    “whatIdo says:
    February 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm
    … define “successful”.

    I anticipate interesting answers from both flanks…”

    The ability to look up “successful” in the dictionary and not manipulate the answer

  17. JudasEscargot says:

    As to “Crips” attending Head Start….

    I wonder how many of the Aryan Nation attended Head Start. How about Fred Phelps followers?

    You know, we might be onto something. If we eliminate Head Start we’ll eliminate crime and racism.

    :::::heavy sigh::::::

  18. JudasEscargot says:

    If we, as a nation can’t afford Head Start, then why doesn’t everyone volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister.

    Mentored children demonstrate the following results:

    more confident in their schoolwork performance
    able to get along better with their families
    46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
    27% less likely to begin using alcohol
    52% less likely to skip school.

    Think of it. All free. Wouldn’t cost a tax payer dime.

    There is a solution. Let’s see how many players we have.

  19. Apparently when quality is lacking sumn folks resort to quantity.

  20. frankiethomas, the studies of charter schools confirm what you are saying, too. In the most successful charter schools targeted toward students in low-income neighborhoods with families at the poverty level, the most significant factor in their success as compared with others targeting the same population, has been the level of support provided to the entire family. This support included child care so parents could be involved in school activities, increased nutritional support from basic levels provided by the state, involvement of at least one parent in the student’s tutoring and mentoring activities, job placement and job training for other family members, family counseling, financial counseling and other support and enrichment activities.

    The most successful models had total costs that were about double what a family at this income level might expect from regular assistance programs, school districts and other sources. In the demonstration projects private not-for profits and corporations paid for most of the extra costs, and when they reduce or eliminate the funding the extra services go away and so too the benefits. (That is one reason I don’t think teachers should be held totally responsible for achievement levels in school).

    When people are offered programs like this there are significant long-term benefits to the families and to our nation. The more libertarian Republicans argue that it causes long-term dependence on entitlements, and the government should not be involved in activities like this. The results show that is not the case in programs that focus on early achievement and family involvement. Because of poverty conditions, family involvement is usually not a reality without support. Moralists would argue, “Well, they should just not have babies if they can’t afford them.” That is not the real world, and we can decide to give a hand up and out of poverty and help our economy overall, or ignore the problem and have this keep dragging our economy down.

  21. Again,

    More utopia, cum-ba-yah, moonbeam, thinking that we can still afford everything under the sun.

    I can at least understand anyone having a special interest in funding something dear to their heart – like one guy posting about the Tacoma Pagoda because he was still bemoaning the plight of Chinese immigrants over 100 years ago, The letter writer here comes across as a poster boy for Head Start – but just like any success story from our public schools,, it doesn’t provide some over-riding proof that Head Start is deserving of anymore priority for funding than public schools or higher education. And while all taxpayers ultimately pays the bill of our Federal budget, at least Head Start isn’t competing directly for our property and sales tax revenues – because if it did then it might find itself in the same boat as Pierce Transit. But as largely a federal funded program Head Start is being paid out of our rising debt – yes, more debt – not even money we have to spend.

    But it is complete ignorance of those who think we can fund everything and fund it at current, or in some cases more, funding.

    It’s as if some of you think money grows on trees – where do tax revenues come from? And with a recession, tax revenues is actually going down – AND with inflation cutting into current budgets (higher utility bills and gas).

    The reality, no matter what your favorite program is, no matter how many superlative words you try and oversell it, is that every program will require some trimming.

    But some of the posters here seem to want every entitlement program under the sun to continue with any unabated funding, with no review of actual management and value of the program, and no restraints on our elected officials as to the ways and means that tax revenues are allocated.

    But a day of reckoning is fast approaching – because either taxes have to go up to meet even current spending, or drastic cuts across the board because between dwindling tax revenues and inflation we simply can’t afford everything anymore.

  22. cclngthr says:

    You have to go back to 1965 to see how Head Start faired in its programming, not just take a short time period a few years ago. What was its success 45 years ago up to 25 years ago. I suspect its success is different than you claim.

    I do think when schools don’t perform, it sets kids up for failure. Many of the schools that kids in Head Start go to are low performing because of assumptions about the kids. These low performing schools are the only option available for them.

    I had the opportunity to teach in a Head Start class back in 1987, and what I noticed was many of the parents then were 20-21 years old, single and having either no high school diploma or just out of high school or only having a GED. How do you expect parents to be parents if they don’t have the skills you want them to have? A parent can be anyone capable of menstrating and ejaculating (no pun here, just facts). If you think you can enact a law requiring a parent to have a college education, a full time job, own a home and earn a minimum of $50,000 a year, good luck trying. That won’t happen.

  23. If we cannot afford Head Start, which provides education, health, nutrition, and social services to poor children and their families through direct services or referrals, what can we afford?
    Why is enhanced revenue that can come from those who can afford it not mentioned as being at least a part of the solution?

  24. cclngthr says:

    People want services, including education to be limited for those who are the best, and the fittest in society.

    The rest, according to people are denied services for who they are.

    It seems as we are going back in time to WWII where Germany enacted policies which promoted a perfect human, meaning that not only genetically, but morally perfect in every way.

  25. cclngthr says:

    The problem is, with compulsory education, compulsory means everyone is entitled to an education. No child should be denied that education. this includes those kids you feel are unworthy for an education, INCLUDING those Ronniew feels are not worth the time, money and effort to receive that education because he feels they either should not, or cannot function in the form or level he wants people to function at.

    Since ALL children must go to school by law, there must be successful programs that offer services for those you feel as unfit for your perfect society. Head Start, ECEAP, special education, title 1, LAP, ESL are several programs that make it possible for those who need extra assistance beyond the one size fits all general education program.

  26. Publico and ccInghtr,

    While I have my own personal opinions on what funding priorities should be – and I am sure it those would be different from many on this forum – that was never the focus of my comments. Moreover, I have never even hinted at any “perfect society” other than commenting on the futility of those who believe social welfare programs will provide one.

    Tax revenues are going down – and costs are going up. That is about as simple a fact as I can put it.

    Sure I can agree that some sort of tax reform that taps into held wealth (capital gains) and slacks off bit on W-2 wage earners might even bring in more taxes. And I have never advocated the trickle down economy that states as long as the wealthy are left alone to keep more of their capital gains from taxation it will create more jobs – because we can certainly see this is a myth. I am saying that the vast working middle class is getting maxed out on carrying the tax load for every government entitlement program.

    I never argued against eduction as a necessary responsibility – but simply that a lot of overhead and admin cost not directly in the classroom need to be cut.

    And above all, that our elected officials need to be more accountable for maintaining a balanced budget and get a handle on fraud, waste, and abuse.

    But regardless of my comments about the reality of simple math – or those on this forum who can’t understand and seem to think everything can be funded without any concern for cost (not unlike you going into a car dealership and writing out a check for a $50K BMW when you only have $300 in your checking account) – the reality is that this recession and inflation, resulting is ever less tax revenues, is going to be like a bucket of ice water thrown on those dreaming that it will just go away.

  27. JudasEscargot says:

    Well, as I expected, no one stepping up and saying “I’ll volunteer”

  28. BlaineCGarver says:

    It’s huge that kids learn basics before going to school. It’s sad that today, the parents won’t do it themselves. My daughter was raised bi-lingual…holy cow, did her little mind expand with that learning. You get out of your kids about what are put into them, parents, so why don’t you have some say about what fills up their little skulls full of sponge.

  29. BlaineCGarver, will you volunteer to help the single mother who works two and sometimes three jobs stay at home and tutor her children. Will you take over her shift to allow her to go to a PTA meeting? Will you help her get training so she can get a better job to be able to work normal hours? Will you help the child of a former meth user who can barely manage the family’s affairs? Headstart works with the the poorest people in our society, not those who can afford to own books or parents who know several languages. They work with children of parents who never learned to read or lived themselves in impoverished backgrounds. A person is not eligible for the program if they can pay for language tutoring or fees to go to the zoo or on enrichment trips to see the wildlife in Yellowstone or the fake ones in Disney World.

    I was lucky. I had a neighbor who had a set of used, worn out and torn encyclopedias. The only book in our house was a Bible. My mother worked two jobs and did not read well. My neighbor read to me from the encyclopedia as she baby sat me and she played her old player piano rescued from the dump that we sang along with. That was my headstart, and many children today don’t even have that much.

  30. bobcat1a says:

    “The greatest nation on earth” is an earned title. It has to be paid for. Having the biggest, baddest military in the world seems to be our only claim to the name now. We apparently can no longer afford to pay for the other parts of the reality so we just hold on to the sobriquet. I wonder what other parts of being a first world nation we will be giving up next.

  31. eagle_beak says:

    enjoyed your letter Ms. Omat. glad that you are doing well and that the program helped you. i also think your parents may have had something to do with how well you say you are doing in school. i do not know what will happen with the head start program but i do know that if parents work with their children, read to them, teach them all that they can like abc’s and counting, etc. they will do well.

  32. northsc .. Darwin said.. nothing breeds arroagance like ingorance.
    I’m an overeducated liberal progressive feminist feminazi; probably your worse nightmare.
    Since I am well educated I only deal in facts. If I say it, its a fact. If you dont agree, please feel free to research it yourself.
    Just because you dont know this bit of common knowledge in no way implies its not true….. if you can understand that concept.. perhaps you should acquire some reasearch skills.
    As usual, the denial of facts pervails with northsc.

  33. northsc… some facts perhaps you arent aware of….
    1. Fox News won a law suit in which they argued it was their firts amendment right to LIE ON THEIR NEWS CASTS.
    2. Just recently, FOX NEWS COULDNT FIND EGYPT ON THE MAP.(I love this so so sooooooooo much)



    Yeah.. northsc ..must be those liberal media lies….

  34. Northsc, utopia for the republicans is forcing open ended weapons systems contracts (like the F-35, and additional C-17) that the Pentagon does not want and says they do not need. But, Oh well, so be it, it’s a national security issue so money will be found.

  35. So first comes “arroagance” (your spelling)…

    “I’m an overeducated liberal progressive feminist feminazi; probably your worse nightmare. Since I am well educated I only deal in facts.”

    … and we know the rest…

  36. whatldo
    a typo is all you have? lolol

    Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
    You know when you have to comment on a typo you have no real arguement.

  37. I thought you were educated… sorry. Sorry you missed the second part too.

  38. Maybe if northsc had attended Head Start he would know how to spell Kumbaya.

  39. BTW: before Kumbaya became a cynical punch line for neo-tea boys, it was a song recorded by Pete Seger, a folksinging hero of the Union movement.

    To quote another song from Elvis Costello’s “angry young man” period:
    What’s so funny about
    Peace, Love and Understanding?

  40. maybe if whatldo went to head start he would know i just made him look like a fool.

  41. lol… you’re gift that keeps giving.

    “Since I am well educated…” So spelling, capitalization, and punctuation weren’t one of your strong suits? Your ignorance is overshadowed by your “arroagance” .

  42. I wonder if sue drinks beer?

  43. It looks like my obsessive anti-fan has an obsessive fan. My girlfriend has a girlfriend (should I be jealous?)

  44. You should give Jerry Springer a call B.

    I was wondering if she and B worked in the “shiny kettle store” …

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