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Plan To Boost Head Start Will Address Quality as Well as Scope, Shalala Says

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Washington--The Clinton Administration will couple a large proposed funding increase for Head Start with efforts to improve the quality and widen the scope of the preschool program, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala told the House Budget Committee last week.

At a separate hearing, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told the panel that the Administration's fiscal 1994 budget proposal will include a $1.2 billion increase for the Education Department's discretionary programs.

The proposed increase cited by Mr. Riley is actually less than the $1.6 billion proposed by President Bush last year. But the Bush budget included more than $300 million to reduce a shortfall in the Pell Grant program, while the Clinton Administration has proposed to wipe out the shortfall with a $2 billion supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year.

Secretary Shalala did not reveal her agency's bottom line for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. But she said Mr. Clinton's long-term plan includes $29.1 billion in new "investments'' in H.H.S. programs over four years, of which $10 billion would go to Head Start.

She said Head Start has "a proven record of enriching lives,'' but she also acknowledged criticism of the program's quality and staying power.

Studies Forthcoming

Ms. Shalala said her agency's inspector general is preparing to release two reports "indicating that the level of Head Start performance as measured by key indicators was considerably lower than those reported by grantees.'' She promised to review the reports carefully.

She also said she plans to work with Mr. Riley to improve coordination between Head Start and the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, which serves primarily elementary students and is administered by the Education Department.

When asked what Administration officials mean when they promise eventual "full funding'' of Head Start, Ms. Shalala said officials are assuming participation of 1.4 million children, including most eligible 3- and 4-year-olds, "and probably a percentage of 5-year-olds.'' She said that figure, and estimates of the cost of fully funding the program, are based on projections of the number of eligible children who will sign up.

"We want to make sure that when we say 'full funding,' we mean full funding,'' she said.

Ms. Shalala also said the Administration's proposal for one-time funding of Head Start summer programs this year--under the supplemental "stimulus'' package that also includes the Pell Grant funds--is the beginning of a plan to make Head Start "a full-year, full-day program that benefits working families'' and provides secure, year-round employment for program workers.

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