Opportunities for Otsego, Inc. is receiving $3,317,564 in federal funding, according to a Tuesday announcement by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Schumer and Gillibrand said the funding is to be used for the organization's Head Start program, which has centers in Cooperstown, Laurens, Milford, Morris, Oneonta, Richfield Springs, Schenevus, Unadilla and Worcester.
Head Start provides comprehensive child development programs for low-income children, helping them develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school, according to the agency's website.
“Early education programs provide the strongest foundation for our children’s success, which is why this funding is so important for Otsego area families,” Gillibrand said in the release. “With this new funding, our community’s Head Start program will have the resources necessary to serve our students and prepare them for bright futures in the classroom and beyond.”
Head Start promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children ages 3 through 5, the years when major learning strides take place, Schumer said.
“Children are most impacted by their earliest lessons and carry those teachings through their academic career,” Schumer said in the release. “We need to invest in early child care programs like Head Start so that we are preparing our children for their future. This Head Start grant will bring real results to our young students in Otsego County by providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.”
Several calls to Dan Maskin, Opportunities for Otsego's chief executive officer, were not returned by 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Through Head Start, children are offered free educational services, coordination of health, dental and development services, nutrition programs, and music and art experiences, according to its website. In addition to providing health screenings, social and emotional health checks, social services and services for children with disabilities, the program also fosters opportunities for parent involvement.
Founded in 1974, the National Head Start Association is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to the belief that "every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life," according to its website. More than 1 million children, 200,000 employees and 1,600 Head Start grantees are in the United States.
Organizations are awarded grants to provide Head Start services in their community through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the release.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, President Barack Obama's 2016 budget requests $10.1 billion for Head Start, a $1.5 billion increase from this year. The budget proposes funds to ensure that every Head Start program serves children for a full school day and full school year. It also includes $284 million for a cost-of-living adjustment for all programs. An additional $150 million for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships would grow that investment to $650 million.
While Head Start programs primarily serve children ages 3 through 5, Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants and toddlers.
To be eligible for Head Start, a family must have a household income at or below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, according to its website. The program follows the school calendar, receiving snow days, holidays and vacations when area schools do.
Schumer said he is proud to support the "essential" funding.
"I will continue to fight," Schumer said, "to see that early child education remains a priority.”