Early Years Column

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Child-care workers and advocates across the country have planned grassroots activities this week to garner support for better wages and benefits.

The events--which range from rallies to forums to fairs--are to mark the second national "Worthy Wage Day'' on April 22.

The Oakland, Calif.-based Child Care Employee Project initiated the idea as part of a five-year campaign to "reverse the child-care staffing crisis.''

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala said last week that she has asked for an "in-depth review'' of Head Start to help "guarantee high quality'' as the program grows.

The program has been under scrutiny since President Clinton proposed fully funding it, with critics raising concern that the quality of programs is uneven and that some gains children make fade over time. (See Education Week, March 31, 1993.)

At a Washington conference dealing with summer jobs last week, Ms. Shalala hailed Head Start's successes and reiterated the Administration's support. She said she had asked Mary Jo Bane, the nominee for assistant secretary for children and families at H.H.S., to conduct a review and report back by September with recommendations on how funds will be spent in 1994, ideas for the program's reauthorization, and a four-year plan to keep it "running strong.''

The National Head Start Association, meanwhile, held a press conference last week to respond to "negative press.''

Advocates stressed efforts they have made for many years to improve Head Start, some of which they charged were stymied by past Administrations. They also said they plan to promote more improvement by seeking to direct more aid to teacher salaries and training, more closely reviewing grantees, revamping the federal Head Start structure, improving technical assistance, and bolstering research.

But they warned against letting the recent criticism blur benefits the program offers children, from improved self-concept to better health.

Principals consistently report that Head Start "does make a difference,'' said Samuel G. Sava, the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., and Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., have introduced a bill that would set "minimum performance measures'' for all grantees.

It would also promote uniform recordkeeping, channel more aid to improvement, boost monitoring, make grants more competitive, and expand the Head Start Transition Project, which extends Head Start into the early elementary grades.--D.C.

Vol. 12, Issue 30

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