Case Study


Helping Children Get Ahead

The National Head Start Association was facing a crisis. Although the program is credited with helping over a million at-risk children achieve pre-school readiness, the federal government was attempting to make serious overhauls in the program's structure that program leaders feared would dismantle it. Among other reforms, the government wanted to turn the whole operation over to the states, with block-grant funding covering Head Start and other programs, eliminate parent councils, and allow Head Start programs sponsored by religious organizations to hire teachers on the basis of religion.

Tonkon Torp attorney Owen Blank worked pro bono with the Board Chair of the National Head Start Association (NHSA) on strategies to alter the federal government's plans. He also utilized personal contacts with three U.S. Senators to support NHSA's position. Their efforts, combined with those of others nationwide, paid off when, in December 2007, the President signed the first reauthorization of Head Start in 10 years. The "Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act" contains none of the major overhauls he had been seeking his entire term. NHSA and its supporters, including Tonkon Torp, helped ensure that this reauthorization will protect the Head Start organization and the children and families it serves.

Established in 1965, Head Start is the most successful and longest-running national school readiness program in the United States. With this reauthorization, Head Start's legacy of academically prepared children is assured.

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