Oakland, California - Decades of research has shown that the first five years of a child's life are crucial to physical, cognitive, and emotional development that will affect that child for their entire life. Head Start provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services that help position any child to succeed later in life, regardless of their parents' income. The program was started by President Lyndon Johnson as part of his Great Society campaign in 1965 and today is still a crucial resource for low income community members in Oakland and their children.
This summer, the Oakland City Council discovered that three Oakland Head Start centers serving predominantly BIPOC communities were to be closed due to budget cuts. During summer recess September, Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao, along with Vice Mayor Kaplan, Council President Bas, and Councilmember Fife co authored a resolution which provided funding to keep those Head Start centers open.
Since September, members of the City Council have heard from concerned community and labor partners that the Head Start Centers may still see budget cuts. These cuts would disproportionately harm mothers, low income community members, and BIPOC communities.
“How can we claim that anyone can make a better life for themselves if we don’t give our youngest Oaklanders a fair chance?” said Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao. “Every person born and raised in Oakland should be able to access the resources they need to grow as a person and make a better life for themselves and their families. Early childhood education, nutrition, and support for parents are essential services to ensure everyone in Oakland has a fighting chance. It is imperative that the City of Oakland fully fund Head Start and even improve the program.”
Councilmember Thao is fighting to ensure no Head Start staff are laid off, no Head Start Centers close, and no reorganization of Oakland Head Start take place while the City Council works to protect and bolster Oakland Head Start services.