I had the opportunity the first day to hear about the appropriations process and how our funding is allocated. There have been proposals to increase Head Start funding made in both the house and the senate budget talks. We discussed the New Proposed Rule-Making document that came out over the summer and they noted the same thing we did locally about it--that if many of the rules were made that Head Start would need lots more money to make it happen--especially the recommendation to change all classes to full day/full year. They also said that they are going over all of the thousands of comments that were made and it would not be until probably this time next year that we would get a final set of rules.
The second day was very exciting, with an opportunity to discuss Head Start history and success stories and to continue building a legacy of high quality programming that will lead us through the next 50 years. We got to hear from Lucinda Robb, the granddaughter of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. President Johnson was the commander in chief who signed Head Start into existence and the first lady was deeply involved in the process, visiting Head Start centers, talking with the families involved and keeping the program in the forefront of the country's consciousness. Ms. Robb talked about President Johnson's beginnings as a teacher in a very poor area of Texas, seeing children who had no food, no warm clothes, living in such poverty. It made a real impression on him. She spoke of her grandmother, Lady Bird, and how she didn't just want to be an "honorary" chairperson for Project Head Start, but to really be involved. It was a wonderful peek into the beginnings of our program.
The third day found us on the lawn of the capital building (in the rain), for a rally to celebrate our 50 years of Opportunity. We heard from various lawmakers, both democrat and republican, honoring Head Start and celebrating that Head Start WORKS!! The most poignant address was from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. She was a Head Start kid, and when she started in her center at age 5, she was often referred to by her family as "porbrecito Loretta" since she didn't speak. She was the daughter of immigrants, one of (I believe) 7 children, and her parents were very motivated for all of their children to get a great education. And they did. Among her siblings, there are doctors and lawyers, and Ms. Sanchez is one of TWO congresswomen--her mother is the only one in the history of the United States that can say that 2 of her daughters have served in congress.
After the rally, I went with Toni from Placer County, to meet with congressmen Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock. The aid in Mr. LaMalfa's office was a very nice man, and he asked a lot of great questions about Head Start as well as took notes on our main requests--to increase funding to our programs, and to include Head Start teachers in the student loan forgiveness program. We met directly with Mr. McClintock. He was not so interested in discussing Head Start, and he is not a supporter of our programs. We will try to keep him informed and hopefully change his mind about the great work we do.
Overall, it was an overwhelming, humbling experience. I was so grateful for the opportunity to represent our programs with these influential people.