Jule Meyer Sugarman, Founder Of Head Start, Dies

Jule Meyer Sugarman, who was a director and primary architect of the Head Start program, died of cancer at his home in Seattle on November 2, reports the Washington Post. He was 83.

Head Start is the federal early childhood education program that was created in 1965 as a way to close the achievement gap between low-income and middle-class children. It has since served millions of preschoolers.

President Johnson’s War On Poverty

Five-year-olds “are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators,” President Lyndon B. Johnson said when he introduced Head Start as part of his War on Poverty program. “Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation like a family birthmark.”

Consultants advised a small, pilot project, but Sargent Shriver, the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity at the time, pushed for a full-scale effort. Consequently, more than half a million children were enrolled in an eight-week summer program with a budget of $96.4 million. And in August, 1965, President Johnson announced that it would become a full-year program.

Much of this was due to Jule Sugarman.

27 Million Preschoolers Served So Far

“Jule Sugarman was absolutely central in mounting the program and was an administrative genius,” says Edward Zigler, a Yale psychology professor who succeeded Mr. Sugarman as Head Start director in 1970. “The rest of us were scholars and experts on children; his bureaucratic brilliance is what the rest of us did not have.”

And surely his brilliance is borne out by the fact that Head Start has lasted for 45 years and served 27 million children.

1.1 Million Children In 2010

Currently, the program has a budget of $8 billion, and there are more than 1.1 million enrollees, 225,000 staff and 2,800 Head Start programs in the United States.

Visiting one of those programs recently in Washington, DC, was a complete inspiration: friendly, skilled teachers, lively surroundings, and energetic, engaged children. I spent most of my time watching a group of 4-year-olds using blocks to create a rocket ship – or was it a birthday cake? They couldn’t decide, but it was great to them building together, working cooperatively, all under the watchful eye of their teacher.

Thank You, Mr. Sugarman

Without Head Start, they wouldn’t have that opportunity. Thank you, Mr. Sugarman.

How about you? Do you have a Head Start kid? Or are you a Head Start veteran? What did it mean to you?

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Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

R.I.P. Jule Meyer Sugarman

Michelle M.
Michelle M7 years ago

rest in peace

Lisa Barnes
Lisa Barnes7 years ago

My mother was a social worker and teacher with Head Start upon its inception. I was a 4 year old at the time and remember it with amazement. The children & parents were happy to have these creative learning and play opportunities.

Leslie M.
Leslie Martin7 years ago

I was a 13-year-old volunteer for a Head Start program just three years after it started. I believe it was a wonderful experience for the children. What a great opportunity it was for young people like me to give to others in a well-established program. I remember the name of the girl who stood out like a star with her ideas and sense of humor. I also remember the name of the very sweet and kind boy who, it was said, "fell down the stairs" rather frequently. Clearly he was being abused, a notion that hadn't yet clearly formed in my young mind. I sometimes wonder what happened to these two children, and the rest of the class. God bless the creator of Head Start and any of our leaders who work hard toward improving our broken educational system.

Alaine P.
Alaine P.7 years ago

Please accept my condolences to the family/friends and fans such as I, for the life of this wonderful man.
Head Start granted a more in depth understanding of all diverse cultures and values of our country's people and the educational goals those strive, even when monies simply become a roadblock to knowledge, childhood basic healthcare and the wish for our children growing-up as equals in a very unequal world. My own children thrived in Head Start programs, granting educational ideals toward higher scholastic goals and giving them a 'blind eye' to prejudices, a true roadblock to relations with all peers. The sharing of all cultures give Head Start children (and myself) a greater understanding of natural surroundings and what is actually offered to us all. Today, this man's dream grants many opportunities that would have bypassed the child and family, creating a more balanced and equated lifestyle for all. I am so thankful for Mr. Sugarman's genius as a caring, creative individual who understood that standing alone in genius is not growth of any sustainable culture. Bringing out the genius of the child, sharing that with the family dynamic, working with communities, eventually grow into our nation of great possibilities. Thank you from the many families Head Start has graced and thank you for the friends of families that have grown with Head Start's seed. This mother is so proud of her children as so many other families can relate.
I will remember Mr. Sugarman dearly.

Barbara V.
Barbara V7 years ago

Oh my, why do the good always have to die young????? Seriously, let's hope Head Start keeps on and on and helps youngsters for many years to come.

Andrea H.
Andrea H7 years ago

RIP. Wonderful, what he did. Good article.

Natalie Williams
Natalie Williams7 years ago

I too taught in a Head Start program . . .the facility I worked for did a good job with the infants and toddlers, but they ultimately lost their funding for the 4-5 yr olds. I"m not sure why, but I can guess that was because the teacher's in the older kids programs were very seldom in the room due to paperwork loads (subs like me were utilized in class too much), lesson plans were not implemented, materials were not supplied, and mostly because they changed teachers too often (over 6 in two years). It is a important program, but it must be implemented with what is best for the children and their families as the main focus. If too many agencies are involved and too much paperwork is interfering with actual class time, then everyone loses. Do it, but do it right!

AnaMaria T.
AnaMaria T7 years ago

I was a teacher in the Head Start Program, I was very happy and enjoyed a lot. This is a very good program!

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

All kids should get an equal "head start". Okay, that's an oxymoron. *All* kids should have the same early education regardless of their parents income brackets or own educational backgrounds. I vote for equality.