Donors help reopen Head Start programs closed after shutdown

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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This week, more than 7,000 at-risk children will be able to return to their Head Start classrooms after philanthropists Laura and John Arnold extended up to $10 million in emergency funding support to the National Head Start Association, officials said.

Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh spoke to local Head Start officials Monday afternoon about the generous donation made by the Texas couple. Kavanaugh learned 113 Georgia programs were forced to close due to lack of funds following the federal government shutdown.

There were empty parking lot, empty classrooms, and empty halls at the Butler Center Head Start program in Gainesville. A sign on the door stated, "Temporarily closed due the government shutdown."

Luckily, the closing will be a lot more temporary than many feared thanks to the Arnolds.

"We have been in communication over the weekend and we have been able to find a generous donor," program director Kay Law told Kavanaugh.

“The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order,”  according to a news release the National Head Start Association provided Monday afternoon.

Law said the Arnolds' donation will enable all centers operated by nonprofit 9th District Opportunity to reopen Tuesday and remain open through the end of the month.

After a one-day shutdown of their own, staff can get back to work. Parents don't need to scramble for childcare.

"More importantly, our children are going to be able to get back into the swing of the classroom," Law said.

They have enough money to get through the end of the month, but they said there are so many more questions marks out there, like the looming debt ceiling crisis. They said relying on donations is not a sustainable way to operate.
"There still is the opportunity that we may have to close again toward the end of the month if the government shutdown doesn't cease," Law said.
The 9th District for Opportunity centers are funded entirely by federal and lottery dollars. If Washington doesn't reach an agreement on a budget, then Head Start monies remain in limbo.

"Sometimes I think we forget when we're talking about programs that these programs affect individual lives," Law said.

They're the lives of roughly 2,200 Head Start and Early Head Start children across 20 Georgia counties.


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