Advancing Rural Economies Through a Head Start in Education
The federal Head Start programs that help provide children an educational boost before entering kindergarten give Georgia’s rural areas a different type of boost by supporting at least $71 million in total economic output in many rural Georgia counties.
Georgia State University’s Center for State and Local Finance conducted a study to analyze the economic impact of Head Start programs, which provide pre-kindergarten educational activities for children with low incomes.
In many rural, low-income Georgia counties, more than half of centers serving 3- and 4-year-olds receive Head Start funds, and some of the highest amounts of per-child funding are in these same rural areas of the state.
Nicholas Warner, who specializes in education finance for the Center for State and Local Finance in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, authored the report, looking at the impact of the funds across the 16 regional education service areas, or RESAs, as defined by the Georgia Department of Education.
Four RESAs with low median incomes — Oconee, Chattahoochee-Flint, Southwest Georgia and Heart of Georgia — received more than $540 per child under the age of 5 in 2015. Together, these four areas received $47 million in direct Head Start funding, which supported $71 million in economic output.
“For the most impoverished areas of the state, these funds are an important factor in economic growth, supporting jobs and wages and fueling spending in the Head Start centers and many other local businesses as well,” Warner said.
Across Georgia, Head Start supports about $415 million in economic activity. Though this is a mere one percent of total statewide output, the funding “is not inconsequential to areas directly supported by the program,” the study notes.
In many cases, Head Start provides a majority of the access to early childhood education. In middle and southwest Georgia, for example, at least 25 percent of child care centers receive Head Start funding.
While the study does not calculate the possible long-term impacts of Head Start in rural Georgia, such as improved learning outcomes or higher lifetime salaries for children who have participated in the program, Head Start is making positive strides toward its goal to help young children in low-income families.
“If education is to be the ‘great equalizer,’ then these results are encouraging,” Warner said. “Access to early education in Georgia is taking place where it’s needed the most.”
You can download the study at: http://cslf.gsu.edu/download/economic-impact-of-head-start-in-georgia/.