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Published in Print: May 19, 2004, as Federal Report Examines Salaries Of Head Start Directors

Federal Report Examines Salaries Of Head Start Directors

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While most Head Start directors and executive directors earn roughly $50,000 to $60,000 a year, a few are getting paid as much as $300,000 annually, a federal survey shows.

Conducted by the Administration for Children and Families—the Department of Health and Human Services agency that oversees the preschool program for poor children—the review was requested last year by Republican leaders in the House after they learned that the executives of some nonprofit agencies that were receiving Head Start funds were earning six-figure salaries and leasing luxury vehicles partly with federal dollars. ("Local Head Start Agency Under Scrutiny," Feb. 4, 2004.)

The survey, submitted last week to Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, shows that total compensation for the 25 top-paid executive directors in fiscal 2002 ranged from $175,828 to $303,559, and that conference and travel expenses at their Head Start agencies that year ranged from $150,956 to more than $1.6 million.

"The results of this inquiry suggest that while many Head Start grantees are taking pains to ensure federal Head Start funds are spent directly on disadvantaged children, others are not," Mr. Boehner said in a press release. "Families, teachers, taxpayers, and Head Start grantees across the nation who are doing good work deserve to know where the bad apples are."

In response to the findings, Mr. Boehner and Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., who chairs the Education Reform Subcommittee, said many questions remain unanswered, including where the executives traveled, and whether executives may be receiving other hidden perks.

Oversight Tightened

Critics of the survey, including the National Head Start Association, an Alexandria, Va.- based group representing Head Start families and employees, argued that many higher-paid executive directors are responsible for administering more than just Head Start grants. The association called the investigation politically motivated.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said that the survey shows "the vast majority of Head Start grantees use their federal dollars wisely," and that the Republicans have taken "advantage of the misdeeds of a select few."

Meanwhile, the Administration for Children and Families last week announced a new strategy to tighten administrative control of the program, which serves more than 900,000 children. The new "management initiative" will focus on improving monitoring of areas such as underenrollment of children and administrator compensation.

"These are things within the context of the current regulations that the [Head Start] bureau can actually do without changes from Congress," said Steve Barbour, a spokesman for the children and families agency.

Vol. 23, Issue 37, Page 30

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