The average cost for quality Pre-K programming is $14,000 annually in Montgomery County, while a family of 2 at the federal poverty line makes $16,000. Head Start Pre-K programs are available for families up to 100% of the federal poverty line, but federal funding only provides a 2.5-hour half day program. A 2.5 hour program is just not enough to meet the children’s needs or the family needs. Our Title 1 schools leverage their dollars to create full day programs, but not all Head Start-eligible children attend a Title 1 school. There were 14 schools who did not have a full day program, leaving the students further behind their wealthy peers.
We expanded Head Start Pre-K for poor families from a 2.5 hour program to a 7 hour full day program to maximize the early care and education that our children and their families need to be more successful. The key innovation is for the local government to take ownership of expanding Head Start rather than relying on Federal and State funds, which will not come soon enough. Through a partnership with the Community Action Agency and the Public School System, we were able to come to identify sufficient school facilities and teachers, and an endless supply of energy from the implementation team for full day programming. The school system was able to generate the budget requirement for funding.