News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

October 15, 2003 3 min read
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GAO: Head Start Meets Credentialing Mandate

A report from the General Accounting Office confirms assertions from the Bush administration that the Head Start program has met and exceeded a 1998 mandate that half of all teachers in the program have at least an associate’s degree.

Between 1999 and 2002, the percentage of Head Start teachers with an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree increased from 37.3 percent to 51.7 percent, according to data that the congressional investigative agency collected from the Administration for Children and Families, the arm of the Department of Health and Human Services that runs Head Start.

But the data were not able to show whether each classroom had one teacher with at least a two-year degree, as is also required by the 1998 reauthorization of the program, according to the Oct. 1 GAO report.

The report also shows that average annual salaries for Head Start teachers have increased since 1998, from $17,956 to $20,793 in 2001, bringing their pay to a level now comparable to the salaries of other preschool teachers. But Head Start teachers still make roughly half what kindergarten teachers earn. And some Head Start administrators say they have a hard time recruiting teachers who already hold degrees, the GAO report says.

The report was requested by four Democrats in Congress involved in the current reauthorization of the federal preschool program for poor children. Further improving teacher quality in the program is included in both the Republican and Democratic versions of Head Start reauthorization bills.

—Linda Jacobson

Labor Dept. Issues Rules On Union Financial Reports

The Department of Labor has issued regulations that will require large labor unions, including the 2.7-million member National Education Association and the 1.2-million member American Federation of Teachers, to provide the federal government with a new level of financial detail on such matters as political spending, lobbying, gifts, and management.

The new reporting forms, which are being revised for the first time in 40 years, will also be required of a handful of the teachers unions’ larger affiliates and perhaps dozens of additional state and local affiliates if the Labor Department prevails over the NEA in a separate legal battle that is not yet resolved.

The AFL-CIO battled the new regulations, which it said were politically motivated. A spokesman for the AFT agreed.

“It’s an attempt to weaken the political strength of unions, forcing them to reveal things that very few corporations in the business world or not-for-profits have to,” Alex Wohl argued.

Robert H. Chanin, the general counsel of the NEA, called the requirements “onerous and burdensome in terms of both time and money.”

Unions will not have to file the reports until March 2005.

—Bess Keller

HHS Campaign to Recruit Older Tutors and Mentors

The Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled a campaign to recruit thousands of older Americans to become tutors and mentors to students.

More information about the Experience Corps is available.

The Experience Corps, which connects older Americans with community-service projects, received a $790,000 grant from the department to develop promotional materials encouraging Americans over 55 to become mentors or tutors.

More than 1,000 Experience Corps members currently serve children in urban public schools in 12 cities across the country.

“Older Americans are a powerful resource for communities all around the country,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson said in a statement last month. “I’m confident that everyone—children and older citizens alike—will gain by bringing more people into Experience Corps.”

—Lisa Goldstein


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