Standing with students, teachers, and school administrators today in Bridgeport, John DeStefano, Democratic nominee for governor, called on Gov. Rell to adequately fund Head Start and give every child the opportunity to succeed in school.
“There are more than 17,000 three and four year-olds without access to pre-k right now,” said DeStefano. “Under Gov. Rell funding for Head Start has actually declined since 2002. This is not surprising considering she was one of only 7 legislators to vote against Head Start in 1992. If Gov. Rell has her way, it would take another 36 years to find coverage for all those kids. State Rep. Jodi Rell didn’t get it then and Gov. Rell doesn’t get it now.”
Gov. Rell’s opposition to Head Start is not new; as a state legislator, Jodi Rell voted against SB 138, a bill that provided funding for Head Start. Rell was one of 7 legislators, out of 140, who voted against the bill in 1992. The Act Concerning Head Start Program Quality and Allocation of Funding and the Duties of the Child Day Care Council passed with strong bipartisan support. Fifty eight Republicans voted for the bill and only 6 did not – Rell being one of them. (1)
The Rell campaign fired back that DeStefano was misinterpreting the record:
“Pointing to the state subsidies for a federally funded program such as Head Start without taking into account Connecticut’s enormous expenditure elsewhere in early childhood education is disingenuous at best,” Governor Rell said.
“Under my Administration, Connecticut has invested $21 million in early childhood education – more than any previous Governor,” the Governor said. ...
The majority of funding for Head Start comes from the federal government. Connecticut contributes an additional $2.75 million a year for Head Start services and a further $1.77 million for Head Start enhancements (capital improvements, supplies and other needs).
At the same time, Connecticut offers a School Readiness Program that mirrors Head Start in many ways but offers increased flexibility. (2)
The release offered no explanation for the governor's vote against Head Start funding in 1992.
Correction from earlier update: the Rell campaign has stated that Rell does not remember the specifics of the bill as it was a long time ago, but that the bill itself did not, as DeStefano claims, provide funding for Head Start. Instead, the bill was concerned with administrative changes to Head Start that would have placed the education commissioner in charge of the program (instead of the human resources commissioner) and required that "at least 25% of the grant funding go to enhancing program quality."
1. "Records Reveal that Jodi Rell was one of Only 7 Lawmakers to Vote Against Head Start." Press Release. DeStefano for Connecticut. 29 August, 2006.
2. "Gov. Rell's REAL Record on Early Childhood Education." Press Release. Jodi Rell '06. 29 August, 2006.