Another complicating factor: the Legislature’s decision may be influenced by Congress’s recent approval of $1 billion more for Head Start in a $1.1-trillion omnibus spending bill. Those funds will restore the sequestration cuts and provide additional money for Early Head Start. The implications for Maine are unclear. Head Start also is given money by the state’s Fund for a Healthy Maine (currently, $1.35 million annually), which receives its funds from tobacco companies under the settlement of a lawsuit by all the states for smoking-caused medical costs.
Head Start serves “the most severely at-risk children,” said Head Start Directors chairman Doug Orville. Besides pre-school education that enhances cognitive and social development, eligible children receive dental, vision, hearing, and other care. Head Start also offers parents certain supports, such as help finding jobs.
The bill boosting Head Start funding and another bill sponsored by Berry that funnels more money toward Head Start classrooms that meet certain quality standards — LD 1581 — will have hearings before the Health and Human Services Committee at 1 p.m. January 30.