Floor and Committee Statements

Wednesday, November 15, 2007

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on the
Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007
Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor

Mr. President, I wish to thank Ranking Member Enzi for his kind remarks and his tremendous dedication and commitment to bringing this conference report to the floor. I particularly want to thank Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts, who is a consummate legislator by anybody's definition and a very committed individual in the development of our youth and the betterment of education.

As Senator Enzi said, about a decade ago I served as chairman of the State Board of Education in the administration of my predecessor in this seat who was then Governor Zell Miller. Those were the years that the breakthrough brain research came forward and illustrated conclusively that there is a direct correlation between early childhood development and the potential development of a person as an adult. We worked very hard together in Georgia to improve the plight of all Georgians and did everything we could to develop new programs. One of them that we developed was none other than the 4-year-old prekindergarten program which now is available to every child in Georgia. It is a program that builds on the fact that the earlier you can begin instruction, the earlier you can improve the environment and the atmosphere in which a child is exposed, the better that child is going to do.

It is critical for us, if we want to turn around the trend in terms of dropouts in this country, to see to it that we enhance and enrich the lives of every single student who is going to go to our public schools.

Mr. President, it is conclusive that the environment in which a child lives in their early years--that to which they are exposed, their nutrition, the total environment--is directly a correlation to their ability to learn. The Head Start Program is designed to get to those children most in need for quality support, for uplift, for a greater self-esteem, and for a leg up, a chance to get to go to a 4-year-old prekindergarten program or to a kindergarten program ready to learn.

USA Today ran an article about a week ago talking about America's dropout factories, and it enumerated schools in almost every State, with dropout rates of 40, 50, 60 percent. If you looked at the facts around those articles and those schools, you would find a common denominator: Those schools' children came from the least of backgrounds, with the least support, and from the poorest of environments. We have an obligation to ourselves and, as Senator Alexander said, America's future to see to it that every American child arrives at kindergarten or first grade ready to learn. The advancement of programs such as Head Start will make that happen.

I commend Senators ALEXANDER, ENZI, and KENNEDY, Congressmen MILLER and MCKEON, and all those who worked on this important legislation. I urge every Member to cast a favorable vote in favor of a better atmosphere for our young children to grow up in, better exposure to those things that help them go to school ready to learn, and turn around the paradigm on dropouts in the United States.