Local Head Start Agency Under Scrutiny
KCMC Child Development Corp., a nonprofit agency in Kansas City, Mo., that runs Head Start programs, is appealing an order from the federal government to return more than $450,000 in pay and benefits paid to its executive director.
A decision on the matter, which is now before an appeals board at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, could take as long as nine months.
Federal officials sought the repayment as part of a national investigation into Head Start directors' salaries after leading Republicans in Congress learned that some directors were earning more than $200,000 a year. ("Hefty Head Start Salaries Prompt Federal Inquiry," Oct. 22, 2003.)
"The public has a right to know the billions of dollars they are investing annually in Head Start are being used to help teachers prepare disadvantaged children for kindergarten, not to lease Mercedes SUVs for local executives," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. He called for the investigation along with Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., who chairs the panel's Education Reform Subcommittee.
Mr. Boehner was referring to reports in The Kansas City Star last fall showing that a vehicle leased by Dwayne Crompton, KCMC's executive director, was partially paid for with Head Start money.
But critics of the investigation, including the Alexandria,Va.-based National Head Start Association, argue that the inquiries are politically motivated and are an effort to further the Republican proposal to allow up to eight states to gain control over Head Start money.
Currently, funds from the federal preschool program for needy children go directly to local agencies.
Other Cases Coming?
Steve Barbour, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, which is part of HHS, said KCMC was the only Head Start agency so far that had been asked to return money related to salaries as a result of the current investigation.
But he added that more funding could be "disallowed" after the completion of a salary survey that is now under way.
"We don't know what's going to show up," he said last week.
Vol. 23, Issue 21, Page 9