Calling Upon the President of the United States to Leave Head Start in the Department of Health and Human Services
WHEREAS, on February 3, 2003, President Bush released his plan for Head Start reauthorization. His plan calls for moving the Head Start Program to the Department of Education allowing states to run Head Start programs; and
WHEREAS, President Bush's Plan would negatively impact the Head Start Programs. The President's radical proposal would essentially dismantle the Head Start program's performance standards and turn it into more of a reading laboratory than the comprehensive program it is today; and
WHEREAS, studies show that the Head Start program works. The most recent government study found that Head Start children are "ready to learn" when they enter kindergarten and that they demonstrated significant gains in vocabulary and letter recognition skills. This is just another piece of mounting evidence proving that Head Start works and is an investment in our future; and
WHEREAS, moving the Head Start Program to the Department of Education and to the states means that important comprehensive services could be watered down or eliminated. Unlike the Head Start Program that provides every child and family with a variety of comprehensive services mandated by the Program Performance Standards, state pre-school programs do not provide nearly as many services nor is the quality at the same level. Of the over 30 states with state pre-school programs, only six (6) require on-site case workers to be available, and half did not provide regular vision, health and mental health screenings; and
WHEREAS, the Head Start Program is a family program. Parental involvement in Head Start would be lost if Head Start were moved to the Department of Education. In Head Start, parents play an integral role. Head Start personnel understand that the parent is the child's primary educator. The Head Start Bureau reported last year that more than 800,000 parents volunteered in programs around the country. They spent significant amounts of time reading to their children and assisting teachers in the classrooms. Parents have also shared governance through their policy councils and are actively involved in the development of their children. Research has found that not only do children benefit from having this active involvement from their parents, but so do the parents themselves. For instance, parental involvement contributes to positive growth and upward mobility, less depression and sickness, and higher levels of educational achievement; and
WHEREAS, federal to local structure ensures that the most needy children and families will be (GAO) report found that federal funds are eight times more likely than state funds to target disadvantaged children. Moreover, another GAO report found that 41% of federal funding for elementary and secondary schools was retained for use at the state level, leaving only 59% for the local level (violating the notion that dollars should be directed to the classroom); and
WHEREAS, tough quality initiatives could be waived. The 1994 and 1998 bi-partisan re-authorization put into place rigorous national performance measures and credential requirements. For example, the 1998 Act requires 50% of all Head Start teachers nationwide to have at least an Associate's Degree or higher by September 2003; a goal Head Start has successfully reached. In stark contrast, 30 states currently allow teachers in childcare centers to begin working with children without receiving any training in early childhood development. In addition, in contrast to Head Start standards which require a comprehensive on-site monitoring visit once every three years, 21 states with pre-kindergarten initiatives either do not require any monitoring or only require written reports without on site visits. Block granting and/or allowing states looking to cut costs the ability to waive these requirements would be a step backwards for Head Start Programs, Head Start teachers and most importantly, Head Start children and families; and
WHEREAS, while we agree with President Bush that Head Start programs should continue to move forward in literacy and language development in increasing accountability and making sure that every child in America is ready for school, we believe that these needs can be better achieved by leaving Head Start in the Department of Health and Human Services.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP call upon the President of the United States and Congress in their 2003 proposed re-authorization process to continue with the Secretary of DHHS as the official responsible for managing and administrating the Head Start program; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP encourages all its units to contact their members of Congress and tell them "Not to move Head Start to the Department of Education" and not to make Head Start a part of the block grant process.