Today, Senator Reverend Warnock gave the keynote address at the National Head Start Association’s Fall Leadership Institute
During his address, the Senator introduced the bipartisan HEADWAY Act (Head Start Education and Development Workforce Advancement and Yield Act)
The legislation would address shortages in the early child care workforce by allowing Early Head Start classroom teachers to teach and earn their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential simultaneously
Senator Reverend Warnock is one of two Head Start alumni to ever serve in the Senate
Click HERE to learn more about the HEADWAY Act
Senator Reverend Warnock: “Good things can happen when Head Start kids can write legislation!”
WATCH the full video of Senator Reverend Warnock’s speech HERE
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), one of two Head Start alumni to ever serve in the Senate, gave the keynote address at the National Head Start Association’s Fall Leadership Institute. During his address, the Senator introduced his new bipartisan HEADWAY Act (Head Start Education and Development Workforce Advancement and Yield Act). The legislation, which is co-led by Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), would address early child care workforce shortages by allowing Early Head Start classroom teachers to teach and earn their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential simultaneously. This bill will help pave the way for greater hiring flexibility, attract more qualified candidates to the profession, and ensure that Early Head Start classrooms are fully staffed—strengthening the nation’s child care infrastructure. Click HERE to learn more about the HEADWAY Act and click HERE to watch the full video of Senator Warnock’s keynote address.
“We know investing in early childhood education makes a difference,” Senator Warnock said to the National Head Start Association.“That’s why, as someone who wouldn’t be standing here without the tools and experience I had in Head Start, I’m particularly proud to announce today I am introducing a new bipartisan bill to start tackling this problem. Good things happen when Head Start kids can write legislation! I’m offering my new HEADWAY Act with my Republican partner Senator Mike Braun of Indiana to strengthen our child care infrastructure by making it easier for early learning professionals to fill these shortages in our Early Head Start classrooms.”
In August, Senator Warnock 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.
WATCH full video of Senator Warnock’s speech HERE.
Read below a full transcript of Senator Warnock’s remarks, as prepared:
“Hello and good afternoon to everybody here at the National Head Start Association’s Fall Leadership Institute.
“I am so honored to be here today! I’d like to thank Malkia Payton-Jackson, a fellow Head Start alumnus and your Director of Alumni Engagement, for that gracious introduction.
“Before I begin, let’s all give a big hand to the teachers, education professionals, and everybody here in this room and across the country who have worked so tirelessly to help shape a brighter future for our children!
“Thank you! You are heroes and deserve our admiration and respect!
“And while I’m here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize your Board Chair, Linda Meredith, and your Executive Director, Yasmina Vinci for doing all you can to ensure every one of our children has the tools to succeed!
“In a real sense, my life has been dedicated to the values everyone in this room holds dear: if we center the most vulnerable in our communities in our public policy, our country will be better off.
“It really is that simple.
“I’m a proud Head Start alum, one of only two in the United States Senate. I like to say that I’m a product of good public policy, thanks to programs like Head Start–because only in this country is my story of being a kid who grew up in public housing to becoming a United State Senator possible.
“And in turn, I’ve spent my life trying to best serve the people. So that more folks from backgrounds like mine can access the bountiful opportunities available in this country.
“Like you, I’ve been engaged in the struggle, dedicated to public service and doing all I can to uplift every American.
“A teacher of mine once told me ‘Service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy.’
“Which is why I was inspired to a life in the ministry, and why I put my hat in the ring and ran for Senate to represent the great state of Georgia.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be entrusted by your neighbors to represent them and fight for them in Washington.
“And what I’m hearing from parents and families in my state is it is becoming even harder to get affordable, quality child care, partly because of the lack of child care professionals in their communities–which puts even more strain on families and our economy.
“Look, as the father of two young kids, I know how important these early years are for development.
“And that is especially true for the kids you all serve—kids who were like me.
“But we know Head Start can make a massive difference in a young student’s life.
“From improving educational outcomes to promoting better social and behavioral development and increased nutrition access, there’s a mountain of evidence that shows the good Head Start can have.
“At the time of its inception in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson predicted that Head Start would be QUOTE “one of the most constructive, and one of the most sensible, and also one of the most exciting programs that this nation has ever undertaken.”
“President Johnson’s prediction has more than proven itself to be true. Head Start is truly a magical and wonderful program.
“In fact, just a few weeks ago, I got to see first-hand down in my hometown of Savannah how Head Start is continuing its mission to pave a path towards academic and life for so many kids and families across the nation.
“I know I have some Georgia Head Start friends in the audience right now—make some noise!
“My visit in Savannah was a real-time demonstration of the work Head Start has been doing for decades that has changed the lives of more than 38 million children. Think about that—38 million.
“Head Start’s success has shown that poverty in this nation is a public policy choice. When our nation is serious about uplifting our fellow Americans who are less fortunate than us, the sky is the limit.
“But right now, leaders in Washington aren’t doing all we can to address the child care crisis we’re in and support Head Start’s magic and power, so you all can keep changing as many young lives as we need you to. Listen to these figures: 20% of Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms nationwide are currently closed; 19% of Head Start staff positions are vacant nationwide; and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that our child care workforce numbers are still alarmingly below pre-pandemic levels.
“This is a massive problem morally AND for the strength of our nation—and you all are living with the consequences of this reality every day.
“We know investing in early childhood education is one of the most profound choices our country can make to stay competitive on the global stage. We cannot allow the gap between children from affluent backgrounds and children from low-income communities to grow.
“That’s why, as someone who wouldn’t be where I am today without the tools and experience I had in Head Start, I’m particularly proud to announce today I am introducing a new bipartisan bill to start tackling this problem.
“I’m offering my new HEADWAY Actwith my partner Senator Mike Braun of Indiana to strengthen our child care infrastructure by making it easier for early learning professionals to fill the shortages in our Early Head Start classrooms.
“My HEADWAY Actwill address the shortage of early learning educators by allowing soon-to-be teachers to earn their required Child Development Associate credential while they teach in Early Head Start classrooms for kids ages zero to three, while retaining the requirement that at least one teacher in every classroom is fully credentialed with at least a C-D-A.
“This bill will support Early Head Start learning professionals and give program directors the flexibility they need to respond to employment trends, while still maintaining the high standards and professionalization of the field.
“And our bill will require mentorship for these early learning professionals to make sure they continue making progress toward earning their C-D-A.
“This is good policy and it’s good for our children. That’s why I am doing this. And it’s why I know NHSA will be with me in the trenches as we push to get this bill signed into law.
“Because you know when we help lift up kids from places like where I grew up, America is better off. When we strengthen Head Start, we are all better off.
“When I was in Savannah, I saw how so many classrooms in Head Start aren’t as full as they should be. As we want them to be. As we need them to be.
“I saw how vital it was to strengthen the child care workforce pipeline. My visit in Savannah was just another reminder that early childhood development is the key not only for these young children, but also for their families, their communities and for our economy.
“In a real sense, my HEADWAY Actis aimed at giving our child care educators — who are unsung heroes and the backbone of our education workforce — a “head start” in their careers.
“My bill will help ensure our Early Head Start classrooms are fully staffed, enabling Early Head Start to fulfill its commitment to providing high-quality early childhood education and laying the foundation for our kids’ future success.
“And it will open up desperately needed slots for students at every income level, providing more child care opportunities for families.
“The idea here is real simple, and I’ll repeat it again: when we center the people in our public policy, we get good results: from lowering the monthly costs of insulin; to pushing to boost mental health counseling for our students; to working to create more green energy jobs; to fighting for disaster relief for communities impacted by extreme weather; to keeping the government open and funded; and of course, protecting the sacred right vote.
“These all stem from the values I first learned in a Head Start classroom in Savannah.
“The work you are doing today and every day to strengthen and bolster early childhood education and Head Start programs across our country is making good on Dr. King’s vision that we must all work to create a more beloved community.
“Your tireless advocacy is setting the stage for a more generous and prosperous America, and I’m so honored to be your ally in this fight.
“Thank you so much for having me today and I hope you cause some good trouble on Capitol Hill advocating for what we all know is the right and smart thing to do.
“Thank you so much — keep the faith and keep looking up.