'Angel Investors' Keep Head Start Program Alive Amid Shutdown

Monday, 07 Oct 2013 09:26 PM

By Amy Woods

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A donation by two Texas philanthropists will resurrect the Head Start program, shuttered last week because of the federal furloughs.

John and Laura Arnold granted $10 million to the National Head Start Association on Monday to get the education initiative for pre-kindergartners from poor families back to work, Politico reported.

According to association spokeswoman Sally Aman, nearly 7,200 children nationwide have been turned away from Head Start programs since Sept. 30.

Programs in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina also have closed, and nearly two dozen in other states face imminent closure. Combined, those programs serve 11,000 toddlers.

A program in Prentiss, Miss., now will be able to reopen because of the windfall, and start serving its 900 children again.

"Like everyone else, we are disappointed in the stalemate that has led to the federal government's shutdown,” the Arnolds said in a press release. "Our representatives' inability to resolve their differences has caused severe disruptions in the lives of many low-income Americans. We believe that it is especially unfair that young children from underprivileged communities and working families pay the price for the legislature's collective failures."

John Arnold, a billionaire who made his money in hedge funds, has been listed as one of Forbes' "4400 Richest Americans." His net worth is $2.8 billion.

"We will help keep the doors open at Head Start programs across the country this month," the Arnolds' statement continued. "We sincerely hope that our government gets back to work in short order, as private dollars cannot, in the long term, replace government commitments."

Yasmina Vinci, the association's executive director, agreed.

"The entire Head Start community and the at-risk children we serve are tremendously grateful to the Arnolds for their compassion and generosity," Vinci said.

"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," Vinci said."

Our elected officials simply must find a fiscal solution that protects, preserves and promotes the promise that quality early learning opportunities like Head Start offer to nearly 1 million at-risk children each year," she said.

The association may be able to pay back the Arnolds.

"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 association statement said.

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