The National Head Start Association awarded the 2020 Head Start Pledge Award to U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., Wednesday for working on behalf of children and families in Central Virginia and across the nation.

Spanberger was given the award for speedily focusing on issues vital to Head Start during the 7th District lawmaker’s freshman year in the House of Representatives, the association said.

The group also recognized the legislator for her bipartisan bill to enable Head Start programs to receive federal work-study dollars and to give college students more opportunities to gain experience in early childhood education.

“Early childhood education remains one of the strongest investments we can make in the long-term success of our students and the long-term economic strength of our communities,” Spanberger said. “Head Start has a proven track record of success in Central Virginia, and millions of Americans have walked through its doors and benefited from the foundation it provides.”

She expressed her gratitude for the association’s honor, and thanked the Central Virginia teachers, parents and community leaders who advocate for the critical program.

“They are true heroes in our communities, and they are laying the groundwork for increased educational opportunities for the next generation,” Spanberger said.

She vowed to continue advocating for robust investment in the successful program, pushing back against any proposed cuts, and fighting to make Head Start and its employees eligible for federal work-study dollars.

“Head Start children and families are grateful for Congresswoman Spanberger’s support, and thank her for keeping the commitment to Head Start in both her words and her deeds,” said Yasmina Vinci, the association’s executive director. “... [O]ur impact would not be possible without the steadfast support of our longstanding allies in Congress.”

Spanberger received the award during the annual Head Start Breakfast on the Hill, where she addressed parents, Head Start alumni and others visiting Capitol Hill to advocate for the early childhood development program with members of Congress and their staff.

Spanberger introduced her legislation to expand work-study to Head Start in August 2019. The bill, which she sponsored with Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make jobs in early childhood education eligible as community service under the federal work-study program. Currently, work-study recipients cannot work in a Head Start center.

Since taking office last January, Spanberger has fought to strengthen support for Head Start programs in Central Virginia and across the country. In June 2019, she helped secure a $1.5 billion increase for Head Start in a House-passed funding bill.

In September 2019, during an eight-stop education tour throughout Central Virginia—including Culpeper—Spanberger visited schools and workforce training programs to learn how she can continue her work to expand educational opportunities for all students.

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