President Begaye signs $6.3 million for Navajo Head Start

President Russell Begaye with leaders in education and a Navajo Head Start family after he signed $6.3 million for the program. (Office of the President and Vice President)

President Russell Begaye with leaders in education and a Navajo Head Start family after he signed $6.3 million for the program. (Office of the President and Vice President)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye signed a resolution Aug. 3 approving approximately $6.3 million in supplemental funding for Navajo Head Start.

“The signing of this legislation is saying to every child that we support you, we want you to do well in school,” Begaye said, “even at this young age, we want you to set the foundation for yourself so that you can move on into higher education and whatever field you choose.”

When the federal Office of Head Start announced that it would reduce funding for Navajo Head Start from the original amount of $23 million to $15.7 million, the Navajo Nation undertook an effort to recover the funding.

In March, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Navajo Nation and ordered the Office of Head Start to restore funding for Navajo Head Start in the full amount.

However, because of delays with the federal government, and in order to continue operations, the Navajo Nation has recognized the urgent need to supply the program with funding from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance. Emergency legislation was submitted by Delegate Jonathan Hale and passed by the Navajo Nation Council in a vote of 17-2.

“President Begaye, Delegate Hale and the Navajo Nation Council have been very helpful,” said Dr. Elvira Bitsóí, director of Navajo Head Start. “This funding safeguards our children’s future. It is good to know that our leaders care. They are investing in our young leaders of the Navajo Nation.”

If you were to look at Navajo education as a corn stalk, Navajo Headstart would be the roots, said Bitsóí. In order for the corn stalk to grow, it has to have healthy, strong roots and that’s what the program offers — a cradle-to-career continuum. 

“Navajo Head Start has been around since 1966,” said Dr. Tommy Lewis, director of the Department of Diné Education. “We’ve come a long way. If we do a good job at Head Start, they will enter kindergarten with excitement and interest. Learning will start from day one. From there it will build up and get higher.”

There are 71 Navajo Head Start facilities ready to go and there are others on a delayed schedule largely because of a lack of qualified staffing. More information for anyone who wants to be a teacher, a paraprofessional or a bus driver or who knows someone who does is available by reaching out to Central Head Start’s Lacie Yazzie at (928) 551-3458 or lacieyazzie@navajohs.org.

Information provided by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

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