On Tuesday, President Obama visited a Philadelphia, PA Head Start program and announced new competition regulations for the Head Start and Early Head Start grant process. With the goal of promoting accountability and improving the quality of Head Start programs, the regulations call for HHS to review all Head Start grantees on classroom quality using an evidence-based evaluation tool and performance standards in the areas of classroom management, family involvement, health, safety, nutrition standards, financial management, and previous license suspension.
Any current Head Start and Early Head Start programs not meeting the quality and integrity criteria will have to re-compete for additional funding. The administration expects that approximately one-third of the almost 1,600 current grantees will be required to re-compete. Those programs will be notified by the end of the 2011 calendar year. In an email describing the notice, the administration’s Director of Head Start, Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, stated, “With today’s announcement we are ensuring that every Head Start child, no matter where they live, has access to the highest quality services from the most capable organizations.”
The rulemaking follows the 2007 bipartisan “Improving Head Start Act” (P.L. 110-134) legislation and recommendations from a National Advisory Committee, both of which addressed Head Start program assessment. The administration cites the delay in Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind reauthorization and some lawmakers’ efforts to reduce Head Start funding as compelling their action to move forward with new standards for this federal hybrid education and social service program. At the recent announcement, Obama said, “I firmly believe that Head Start is an outstanding program and a critical investment.”