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McCartney Op-Ed Helps Head Start

When she sat down at her computer to draft a commentary on the need to maintain Head Start funding, Dean Kathleen McCartney hoped her words would have an impact on the debate raging in Washington. However, she never could have anticipated how far her words would travel and the effect they would have.

“Last year, I gave a keynote address to the National Head Start Association (NHSA), where I summarized data from the field on why Head Start is a good investment,” McCartney says. “When the Congressional budget debates began earlier this year, I received a troubling phone call from NHSA. Under the proposed budget, over 218,000 children would lose their enrollments in Head Start. I decided to write an op-ed to focus public attention on an issue that I believe is central to ensuring education equity for all learners.”

McCartney’s opinion piece made the top three on the CNN newsfeed, garnering 2,260,643 views.

Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association noted that she posted McCartney’s link to Facebook, where another 3,622,109 had a chance to read it. On top of this, Vinci emailed the op-ed to all NHSA members, as well as members of Congress and Congressional staff.

Ultimately, Congress did not cut the $1.5 billion necessary to continue serving 218,000 children, their families and 55,000 staff of Head Start and Early Head Start services, Vinci says, for which she credits McCartney’s piece.

“This boosted the morale of the staff and Head Start community like a vitamin in a time when anxiety and fear were running high,” Vinci says. “Staff were able to forward [the op-ed] to influential people as the opinion of someone who is highly respected and who people listen to. If we had people sitting on the fence or were not sure whether believed negative press about Head Start then having McCartney’s opinion was really critical.”

Vinci said that McCartney’s clearly stated and accessible piece made a good case to retain Head Start. Additionally, Vinci said this proves how the academic community can closely be connected to the reality of children and families lives. “Having Dean McCartney participate in such an important way was an enormous example of what can be done by the academic community,” she says.


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