Public Papers

Remarks at a Head Start Center in Catonsville, Maryland


Maryanne Anderson, thank you so very much, not just you but everybody that has given us this very warm welcome. May I salute our Secretary of Education, who is with us. Were you introduced before I walked in here? Stand up, come on: Lamar Alexander, the Secretary of Education for the United States. Lou Sullivan, right here, is the Secretary of HHS. And most of you know him by his works, but Lou, I guess you were greeted.

And may I single out Congressman Helen Bentley, who flew over with us on Marine One. Here she is, over here. And I would be remiss if I didn't especially single out my friend, your Governor, Don Schaefer.

We have these national education goals, and then we have a group of Governors, nonpartisan, come together, all of them as a matter of fact, to endorse them. And to implement these goals we have a program that Lamar is working so hard on -- Lou helping, I'm trying to help -- called America 2000. And I think you and Maryland can take pride that your Governor was the first one on and has been an early advocate of goal one, or the whole program, first one on board, and secondly, a very early advocate of Head Start and this early learning concept. So I appreciate, Governor, your taking the time to come here in that spirit.

And I salute the parents without whom this program cannot work to its fulfillment, parents, parental involvement, and we saw that. And I salute the parents, not only here but out there, who are doing so much to get these kids ready to learn.

Last Friday, I had the privilege of visiting the living memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King in Atlanta, went down there with Coretta Scott King. And contemplating the legacy that Dr. King left for us all, I was struck once again by the immense importance that he placed on quality education. He called it ``the passport to a better life.'' And he was right.

We face a great challenge today in making America a country that will lead not only in the 1990's but in the 21st century, lead, the leadership in education. This mission involves many things. And next week when I deliver a State of the Union Message, you'll see that we've been doing some hard thinking about how to fulfill this uniquely American destiny. And one of the keys is to make sure that this generation of young Americans, like these young people here today, are prepared to lead.

And in a word, that demands educational excellence. As many of you know, we've launched a comprehensive strategy to radically transform, radically transform America's schools. And yes, we've set high goals. And the first goal is this, and I mentioned it earlier: By the year 2000, every American child must start school ready to learn.

Many children need a head start, and we're going to make sure they get it. Today I'm pleased to announce that we're taking a large step toward meeting that first crucial goal. In the budget that I'll submit later this month, I will ask Congress for a 0 million increase in Head Start, the largest increase ever. And we've fought for increases the last 3 years, but this one is the largest ever. It's the third straight one, as a matter of fact. Increasing funding for Head Start has been a priority with me, with Dr. Sullivan, with Secretary Alexander and others for a long, long time, certainly for the teachers, the dedicated teachers that we've seen here today.

And in 1989, just a little review here, we increased funding over 1988 levels, as well as in 1990 and then again in 1991. And these funds will allow every eligible 4-year-old child whose parents want them to participate to have the Head Start experience before starting school, every eligible 4-year-old. And when Congress approves my request, and I'm confident they will go along, we will have more than doubled the program's funding over the past 3 years.

Of course, in education as in other fields, Government is just one part of the larger solution. Real progress in America comes from strong families and communities, from committed individuals binding together in common purpose, whether it's a church congregation opening a day care center in its neighborhood or parents taking a little extra time to read to their children.

No Government program alone can guarantee that children start school ready to learn. No Government program can take the place of parents and of communities that nurture the children who otherwise might have been left far behind. But in Head Start we found a Government program that works, that works to strengthen communities and families for the future.

Time has proved that Head Start brings out the best in us. And last year, more than 800,000 Americans gave of themselves by volunteering in a Head Start program. That is an amazing figure. You can see it right here at the Emily Harris Head Start Program where the entire staff, including volunteers, make sure their young pupils get the skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. They learn about getting along; they learn about sharing with others, about independence, about self-confidence.

Every parent here knows that Head Start is really more than education. It provides hot meals, ensures that children receive immunizations and access to needed social services, health and dental care. Dr. Sullivan, whose Department does such a splendid job in administering Head Start, knows from personal experience the importance of nurturing the body as well as mind.

And most of all, Head Start is about family. Head Start couldn't be the success it's been without the direct involvement of parents. Governing councils give parents the opportunity to set the program's direction. Head Start brings parents right into the classroom and into the learning process. And they attend child care workshops, and they learn how to prepare well-balanced meals. And all of these serve to reinvigorate those family values that are the true key to a happy, wholesome, and productive life.

Head Start works. It's not perfect. We're committed to making a good program better. Over the past 3 years we've made sure these increased funds best serve the needs of families. We've made family service centers part of Head Start to provide substance abuse counseling, job training for parents who need them. And we've encouraged every Head Start program to offer adult literacy classes for Head Start parents.

But our greatest challenge lies in ensuring that when children leave Head Start ready to learn, they enter an educational system where they can learn. We're helping with the head start; let's make sure that they cross the finish line too, prepared to be the leaders of the next century.

I really was very pleased to be here today. And I'm honored that I've had a chance to see firsthand the work that the teachers, the parents, the community is doing to support this worthwhile program. It is an example for the rest of our Nation. So, thank all of you.

And let me say in conclusion, thanks for the kids. I learned an awful lot about bathtub toys; about how to work the telephone -- several of them know their own phone numbers; preparation to go to the dentist; and a lot of things that I'd forgotten. [Laughter] So, it's been a good day.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. at the Emily Harris Head Start Center. In his remarks, he referred to Maryanne Anderson, Baltimore County Head Start director.