ICYMI: Senator Reverend Warnock Returns to Savannah to Preview Bipartisan Legislation Addressing Child Care Workforce Shortage

Senator Reverend Warnock returned to the Coastal Empire to visit Savannah’s Early Head Start facility and greet some of Georgia’s smallest scholars

Senator Reverend Warnock previewed his forthcoming bipartisan legislation to address workforce shortages in Early Head Start classrooms 

Senator Reverend Warnock is a proud Head Start alumnus–only one of two currently serving in the U.S. Senate 

Senator Warnock to Savannah Morning News: “To hold young minds in your hands is a profession that is vast, sacred and noble, and ought to be treated with respect”

Senator Warnock to WSAV: “Long before I was a United States Senator, I was a child growing up in a Head Start program, right here in Savannah”

Above: Senator Reverend Warnock helps a young Georgian tie his shoes at Savannah’s Early Head Start facility 

Savannah, GA — This week, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a Head Start alumnus, returned to his hometown of Savannah, Georgia to tour Early Head Start classrooms at the Economic Opportunity Authority (EOA) for Savannah-Chatham County and hear from local early learning leaders about the workforce shortages impacting this critical early education program serving low-income families and their children. Senator Warnock was led on a tour by EOA Executive Director Terry Tolbert, EOA Board Chair Karen Bogans, and local Head Start Director Alycia Brown. Senator Warnock also announced forthcoming bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing this very issue. His soon-to-be introduced legislation would allow students earning their Child Development Associate (CDA) degree to work in the classroom, provided they are working alongside a fully credentialed teacher, helping alleviate costs and bureaucratic barriers to developing a robust early education workforce. The legislation also requires mentorship within the program to support staff as they complete their CDA. Senator Warnock plans to introduce the legislation this fall.

See below coverage of Senator Reverend Warnock’s stop in Savannah:

Savannah Morning News: Warnock tours Head Start classrooms ahead of push for more student teachers

August 22, 2023 

  • On Monday, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock toured classrooms at Savannah’s Head Start facility on May Street, located near the Herbert Kayton Homes where he and his 11 siblings were raised. As he engaged with students and teachers, he spoke of his push for bipartisan legislation to address workforce shortages in Early Head Start classrooms, which provides childhood development, learning, health and family well-being services to Georgia’s children from ages birth to 3 years.

  • “Student debt is a real issue. It’s going to be hard for some students to be in these classrooms and they may have to make a different economic choice,” said Warnock. “My bill will be helpful because people will be less likely to accumulate debt in the first place while at the same time pursuing that education.”

  • After Warnock’s tour, Head Start Director Alycia Brown shared that the May Street facility has six understaffed classrooms and 20 teaching vacancies. She stated that without the teacher shortage the facility would be able to accommodate about 327 students. Currently, the school caters to roughly 150 students.
  • “There’s no question that we got to strengthen the workforce pipeline,” said Warnock. “I think early childhood development is key not only for these young children, but also for their families and for our economy.”

  • Warnock plans to introduce the Early Head Start legislation when congress reconvenes after Labor Day. His Republican colleague Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana has co-sponsored the bill. […] Warnock cited the bipartisan collaboration as a good path toward getting the bill passed.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Sen. Warnock gets head start on proposed Head Start legislation

August 22, 2023

  • Warnock went classroom to classroom Monday morning, visiting with preschoolers and their teachers in an education building located a 5-minute walk from where he grew up. More than a social call, the Democrat chose the Savannah locale to announce legislation meant to create shoe-tying opportunities for more American children by allowing student teachers into Early Head Start classrooms.
  • For Warnock, the program is personal — he is a Head Start alum, having attended a similar Savannah-area preschool, known as Early Birds, in the early 1970s. “Here’s the bottom line for me: In one of these classrooms could be your next United States senator from Georgia,” Warnock said. “And I mean that because I was one of them.”

  • Early Head Start, which serves children ages 6 months to 3 years, and Head Start, for children 3 years old to 5 years old, face a chronic workforce shortage nationwide. The dearth of teachers is particularly pronounced in Savannah — the program has funding for 327 children but operates at less than half capacity.
  • Warnock characterized his bill as a workforce development initiative. Student teachers working in Head Start would earn a salary, incentivizing more young adults to pursue CDAs and prepare young children, many of them from low-income families, for kindergarten.
  • Warnock and his 11 siblings were raised in public housing in Savannah. He credits Head Start along with another government-backed education program for youth, Upward Bound, for propelling him to success.
  • “I know firsthand the difference that these programs make,” Warnock said. “Head Start did for me exactly what the name suggests: It gave a kid growing up in public housing a head start, gave me a path toward academic success and laid the foundation for everything that I’ve done ever since. I’ve never forgotten that.”

WTOC: Sen. Warnock visits Head Start program, plans to introduce bill to reduce staff shortages

August 21, 2023

  • Georgia U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock was in Savannah on Monday touting his plans to reduce staffing shortages in Early Head Start classrooms. “We need to incentivize work by making sure that children have a safe place where they can be educated. And their parents, moms and dads, can get to work,” said Senator Warnock.
  • The legislation would allow people to begin working in a classroom alongside a certified teacher while they earn the needed degree. “They can benefit from the mentorship of the other teacher who’s in the classroom. And because they’re earning money, they can have a path to getting it done,” said Senator Warnock.

  • Early Head Start is a program that helps kids up to age three in low-income families prepare for school. A February report from the National Head Start Association said nearly 20% of staff positions were vacant nationwide…with the top reason being compensation.
  • “The biggest challenge is getting kids in and getting people who are CDA qualified,” said Terry Tolbert. Economic Opportunity Authority Executive Director Terry Tolbert says those shortages extend to their programs here in Savannah. […] “Getting people prepared to do early learning can help them a long way in terms of getting a quality work experience.” said Tolbert.

WJCL: US Senator Raphael Warnock visits Savannah

August 21, 2023

  • Head Start and Early Head Start programs are seeing a staffing shortage nationwide, including in Savannah. But Savannah native and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, himself a product of those programs, is hoping to do something about it.
  • “Head Start did for me exactly what the name suggested, it gave a kid growing up in public housing a head start,” Warnock said. “It gave me a path towards academic success and laid the foundation of everything that I’ve done ever since.”

  • Now in his role as senator, Warnock is addressing a shortage of early childhood teachers. He’s introducing a bipartisan bill that would allow younger teachers to get classroom experience with a qualified teacher while pursuing their own Childhood Development Associates Degree.
  • “My bill would provide some additional flexibility so that young people who would like to enter into a career of early childhood development, a noble profession, should have a realistic path,” Warnock said.

  • And for the Economic Opportunity Authority which operates the Early Head Start and Head Start programs, the new legislation would be a game changer.

  • “That would be a tremendous help for our agency,” said Alycia Brown, director, “Currently we are understaffed so that would give us the staffing to accommodate our waitlist we have. We have six classrooms that we can not open because we are understaffed.”

  • The EOA’s Head Start and Early Head Start when fully staffed can accommodate nearly 330 students, but now because they are understaffed they only have around 150 students.

WSAV: Sen. Warnock pays a visit to the Hostess City

August 21, 2023

  • Senator Raphael Warnock was back in his hometown of Savannah this morning to visit classrooms at the Savannah-Chatham County Economic Opportunity Authority.
  • Head Start is a free, federally funded program intended to prepare children ages 0 to 5 for school. It’s a program Warnock is quite familiar with.

  • As somebody who went through the program himself, Warnock emphasizes the importance of investing in our youth. “As I get older, the more passionate I become. Quite frankly somebody’s got to pay my social security,” Warnock said.
  • Warnock mentioned that he’s already helped secure a billion dollars in funding for the program- but he insists there is still more progress to be made. “I’ll continue to do anything I can to support these young children– I was one of them.”