Courtesy of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance
A preschool in Torrington (Courtesy of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance)

A $10-million donation from a Houston-based hedge fund manager and his wife will help keep Head Start programs, including one in Bridgeport, running during the federal government shutdown.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation and its donation will help serve more than 7,000 at-risk children in six states, according to National Head Start Association officials. More than 1,000 of those children are from Bridgeport.

The Bridgeport program is run by Action for Bridgeport Community Development, which did not receive its payment from the federal government on Oct. 1. As a result the organization sent 313 of its employees home and closed its 13 locations when the shutdown began last week. It’s unclear how soon the centers will be reopened.

Officials from the National Head Start Association said Monday in a press release that when these centers close “many low-income parents must miss work and school as they scramble to find alternative child care.”

In addition to providing early learning opportunities, the center provides meals and medical screenings.

“This announcement is great news for the children who will continue receiving critical education, nutrition and developmental services at their local Head Start center,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said. “But relying on generous donors is no way to keep our country on the right path.”

DeLauro and the rest of Connecticut’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation are continuing to call on their Republican colleagues in the House to “end this intransigence.”

DeLauro continued: “We should reopen the government immediately and stop lurching from crisis to crisis.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes was in Bridgeport on Monday speaking with Head Start parents and teachers about the impact of the shutdown.

If the shutdown goes beyond Nov. 1, more Head Start programs in Waterbury, Winsted, New Milford, Stamford, Torrington, and Naugatuck face closure.

“If the government does not reopen by November 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. territory stand to lose access to Head Start funding,” officials said in a press release Monday.

The Arnolds’ $10 million donation will help Head Start programs keep their doors open in Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, South Carolina, and Missouri.

“The entire Head Start community and the at-risk children we serve are tremendously grateful to the Arnolds for their compassion and generosity,” Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, said. “The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children.”