President Bush chose the Emily Harris Head Start Center in Catonsville yesterday to announce his latest Head Start initiative, a proposed $600 million increase in the program's funding for Fiscal Year 1993. The visit was a classic "photo op," the kind of setting politicians love in an election year. But the president is not alone in recognizing that children's issues strike a responsive chord with many voters. Democrats are also eager to do more than just kiss babies on the campaign trail.
The proposed increase would be the largest yearly rise in Head Start's history, but congressional Democrats, led by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, are seeking an even heftier increase of $1 billion for 1993. President Bush says his proposal will make it possible to serve all eligible four-year-olds, but the reauthorization of the program in 1990 cited a wider target, aiming to serve all eligible three-year-olds, as well as eligible five-year-olds who are not already enrolled in public kindergarten.
That goal remains unmet. Children's advocates point out the earlier intervention and education takes place, the better the results. That's undoubtedly true, but until adequate funds are available for that much expansion, fans of Head Start can take pleasure in watching politicians compete to show their support for this popular program.