Saving Head Start

Why Houston's young billionaire couple donated millions to combat the government shutdown

Houston's young billionaire couple spends millions to fight shutdown

Gala on the Green Laura Arnold and John Arnold
Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold pledged $10 million to reopen Head Start programs closed by the government shutdown. (File Photo) Photo by Bill Olive
Head Start program with teacher and young students
As generous as the donation is, upwards of 87,000 children will lose access to Head Start if the government shutdown continues. Ed.gov
National Head Start Association at White Houe protesting shutdown October 2013
Head Start supporters at the Oct. 2 Stop the Cuts Rally! on Capitol Hill National Head Start Association/Facebook
Gala on the Green Laura Arnold and John Arnold
Head Start program with teacher and young students
National Head Start Association at White Houe protesting shutdown October 2013

Houston mega-philanthropists John and Laura Arnold have pledged $10 million to reopen Head Start services suspended during the ongoing federal government shutdown.

The emergency dollars will allow more than 7,000 low-income children to return to the seven programs in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi. The money — which also helps to prevent several other closures — will be sent back to the Arnolds without interest if the not-for-profit group receives its regular funding when the government resumes operations.

“The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor." 

But, as financially generous as it is, the donation only funds these particular seven Head Start programs through October. If the shutdown continues into November, upwards of 87,000 children will lose access to early learning opportunities, nutritious meals and medical screenings.

The 39-year-old Arnold — who has a net worth of $2.8 billion, according to Forbes — retired from energy trading in 2012 to concentrate on the eponymous foundation he runs with his wife Laura. A spokesperson for the couple reports that the Head Start relief funding is a personal donation with no ties to their charitable organization.

“The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor," Head Start national executive director Yasmini Vinci said in a statement. "They have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

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