Start Reauthorization Bill
On Wednesday, October 29, the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 21-0
to pass the Senate version of the Head Start reauthorization
bill. The House passed its version (H.R.2210) in July. The
bill will now be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor,
and then a committee of House and Senate members will draft
a final compromise bill.
A main concern of the Senate Democrats
was that the bill would establish academic testing of children
in Head Start programs. However, after working out a compromise,
the bill now says that testing can only be used to improve
the programís curriculum and cannot be linked to funding
decisions. Congress will request that the National Academy
of Sciences review the new attainment standards proposed
by the bill and make final recommendations.
Unlike the House version, the Senate bill
does not include a provision to establish a pilot
program to allow states to use federal Head Start funds for
their own early childhood programs.
Title II of the House bill establishes
an eight-state demonstration program, which will allow states
to use Head Start funds for state and local early childhood
programs without the requirement that they meet the Head
Start Performance Standards established by the Head Start
Act. Title II does not guarantee that children and their
families will continue to receive the range and intensity
of comprehensive services now provided. At best, it requires
services as extensive as those offered in Head Start only
for the same number of children receiving Head Start in the
base year. However, children who are added under the state
program have no such assurances of receiving the same range
and delivery of services.
In addition, Title II limits attention
to childrenís cognitive, physical, and social development,
while ignoring their emotional development and motivation
to learn. A childís social and emotional development is the
foundation of early literacy, but Title II of H.R. 2210 treats
social development only as it pertains to classroom behavior.
The Senate bill also differs from the House
bill in the area of hiring practices based on religious preferences.
While the Senate version does not include language allowing
this practice, the House bill does.
In a letter written by Reps. Hinojosa (D-TX)
and Grijalva (D-AZ) to their colleagues, they go so far as
to state, ďNo religious organization participating in Head
Start has requested this ability to discriminate, and many
openly oppose using federal dollars to discriminate against
teachers or parents.Ē However, H.R. 2210 seeks to repeal
the non-discrimination laws as they pertain to Head Start
teachers and volunteers.
If this provision is included in the final
Head Start reauthorization bill, thousands of Head Start
teachers could lose their jobs, and tens of thousands of
parent volunteers could lose their privilege of serving as
volunteers in the classrooms. Additionally, countless parents
could be blocked from climbing the ladder out of poverty
that has already taken thousands from being a parent volunteer
to being a trained and paid Head Start teacher. All of this
could happen because an individualís religious beliefs differ
from those of his or her federally-funded employer.
Funding and Professional Requirements
The Senate version authorizes a funding
level of up to $8 billion for Head Start by fiscal year 2007.
The program received $6.7 billion fiscal year 2003.
The Senate bill would also require that
all Head Start teachers obtain an associateís degree by the
year 2009; half of them would be required to have completed
a bachelorís degree by 2010. In contrast, the House bill
directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure
that half of the Head Start teachers have at least a bachelorís
degree by Sept. 30, 2008, and that all new teachers have
at least an associate degree or be enrolled in school to
pursue one within three years of the billís enactment.
If you have additional questions
regarding the Head Start reauthorization, please contact
Ann Bradford at firstname.lastname@example.org or