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Letter to the House on the Head Start reauthorization bill

April 20, 2007

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our support for the Improving Head Start Act of 2007 (H.R. 1429), scheduled for floor debate next week.  Specifically, we urge you to:

  • SUPPORT passage of this important legislation; and
  • OPPOSE any motion to recommit that would include a repeal of long-standing civil rights protections.

Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 110th Congress. 

NEA believes that children's learning begins well before they enter school, and that the transition to school must be founded on strong school readiness.  Head Start has a long history of success in this arena, having provided high-quality early childhood education, health, social services, and parental involvement programs to more than 18.5 million low income children between the ages of three and five since its creation in 1964.

Given the critical importance of Head Start, we are particularly pleased that H.R. 1429 increases funding for the program.  We are also pleased that the bill emphasizes early childhood educator professional development—a critical component in ensuring the highest quality education for our youngest learners.

We would like to commend the Education and Labor Committee for rejecting language that would repeal provisions designed to protect Head Start teachers, staff, and parent volunteers from employment discrimination based on religion in federally-funded Head Start programs.  We recognize the invaluable contributions of religious organizations participating in Head Start.  However, we believe that a repeal of civil rights protections could allow religious organizations participating in Head Start to fire teachers or parent volunteers based on their religion.  We strongly believe that allowing discrimination based on religion would significantly impede the important goals of Head Start as well as send a damaging message to students.  Therefore, we urge you to reject any motion to recommit that would seek to repeal these important protections.

Again, we urge your support for passage of H.R. 1429.  We thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy