Keeping up the momentum. LACOE Superintendent Debra Duardo and Board members James Cross and Gregory McGinity greet Mountain View SD Head Start parent Mireya Velazquez and her daughter during the Oct. 10 Board meeting.

This is a pivotal moment for Head Start. It’s time for our parents to stand up and make their voices heard.

All the loudest voices are saying that Head Start does not work, but we know that Head Start services lead to better child outcomes. Now we need to take that message to all the key decision makers.

That’s why LACOE introduced Parents as Leaders, an initiative empowering parents in civic engagement while educating elected officials about Head Start’s long-term benefits. The groundwork was laid in April, when I traveled with County Superintendent Debra Duardo, Executive Deputy Superintendent Joseph Ybarra, and Governmental Relations Director Pam Gibbs to Washington, DC. We then took a major first step in September when more than 70 parents, community representatives, and staff shared their Head Start stories with 18 members of Congress in DC.

A couple weeks later, many of these parents presented their DC experience to the County Board. Following their moving talk, Superintendent Duardo praised Head Start’s focus on the whole child and family, and noted how empowering it is to learn how to advocate for yourself and your child. Board President Alex Johnson shared his excitement at seeing so many fathers involved in the effort, a clear result of our successful male engagement initiatives.

This was a great first step. Now, let’s carry the momentum forward. Before June 2018, I want our parents to visit field offices for their local, state, and federal representatives. I want them to share their stories at the State Capitol in Sacramento. I want our agencies to invite elected officials into classrooms to observe and interact with teachers, children, and families.

Let’s also continue to empower even more parents to share their Head Start story with key decision makers. Let’s tell them how Head Start disrupts the cycle of poverty, stops the prison pipeline, and improves the country’s economy. Let’s get them to expand the education conversation from K–12 to start at birth instead. Let’s make sure that every child has an opportunity for a better future, regardless of their family’s circumstances.