Federal

Senate Committee Backs Head Start Plan

By Linda Jacobson — November 05, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By setting new learning expectations for children and requiring more teachers to earn college degrees, a compromise Head Start bill passed by a Senate committee last week includes many of the changes Republicans wanted this year.

But the bill, passed unanimously on Oct. 22 by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, would also increase funding for the program, expand eligibility levels to include more children and keep control over the preschool program at the federal level.

Whether to allow a handful of states more authority over Head Start money—a proposal included in a bill already passed by the House—is likely to be heavily debated in future negotiations this fall.

Responding to recent concerns over the salaries of some executives in charge of Head Start programs, the Senate bill also stipulates that directors of nonprofit agencies receiving federal Head Start money could not make more than the $171,900 a year that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson earns.

The HHS secretary leads the federal department that oversees the federal preschool program for disadvantaged children.

In another effort to make Head Start grantees more accountable, the bill would also require all but the highest-performing programs to compete again for grants every five years.

The measure increases authorized spending for Head Start from its current level of $6.8 billion to $7.2 billion in fiscal 2005. The plan now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

In what Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the chairman of the committee, called “a very aggressive academic component,” the bill would establish new educational standards for children in the program, such as requiring them to know the alphabet, recognize numbers, and be able to measure length, weight, and time.

Those standards would not be implemented, however, until the National Academy of Sciences reviewed and made recommendations about appropriate expectations of 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the compromise agreement. In the days before the committee vote, Head Start advocates tried to get the academic goals dropped.

“The rigid list of outcomes ... ignores the fact that early- childhood education is a field that is constantly evolving; we should not be frozen in place by formal legislative language that is far more detailed and restrictive than is necessary,” says a written statement from three researchers that was distributed by the Alexandria, Va.-based National Head Start Association.

Unlike the House plan, which passed in July, the Senate proposal does not include a demonstration program that would allow eight states to take control over Head Start funds—a plan that Democrats and advocacy groups have bitterly opposed.

Seeking Alignment

But the Senate bill would require more collaboration between Head Start and state- financed prekindergarten programs, and it calls for state schools superintendents and local education agencies to work with Head Start when drawing up school readiness standards and classroom curricula.

“The alignment with K-12 was something all of us wanted,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the ranking minority member on the committee.

Still, Secretary Thompson issued a statement following the committee’s action saying that the Bush administration “prefers the approach in the House bill.”

Like the House bill, the Senate plan calls for higher teacher credentials; it would require all Head Start teachers to have at least associate’s degrees by 2009 and 50 percent to have a bachelor’s degrees by fall 2010. The bill also would set a 2007 deadline for all teaching assistants in Head Start classrooms to have a child-development-associate credential or be enrolled in a degree program.

“This bill reaffirms the Head Start program’s primary purpose: helping to ensure that low-income children have an opportunity to enter school ready to learn with the rest of their peers,” Sen. Gregg said in a statement.

Republicans in the House say their bill would also address the salary issue and prevent financial abuse. Giving eight states authority over Head Start money would allow them to discover and correct financial problems quickly, according to a staff document prepared for Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

The House bill also calls for unannounced visits to Head Start programs by monitors, and for using outside contractors to conduct those visits in order to reduce conflicts of interest.

Assistant Editor Erik W. Robelen contributed to this report.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment: Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal What Educators Need to Know About Senators' Bipartisan Deal on Guns, School Safety
In addition to gun restrictions, a tentative compromise would also fund mental health and school safety programs—but it faces hurdles.
4 min read
Protesters hold up a sign that shows the outline of a rifle struck through with a yellow line at a demonstration in support of stronger gun laws.
Protesters gather for the March For Our Lives rally in Detroit, among the demonstrations against gun violence held on the heels of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
KT Kanazawich for Education Week
Federal Senate Negotiators Announce a Deal on Guns, Breaking Logjam
The agreement offers modest gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.
5 min read
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Federal Education Secretary: 'Let's Transform Our Appreciation of Teachers to Action'
Miguel Cardona shared strategies to help recruit, develop, and retain effective teachers.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the White House on April 27.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal Lawmakers, Education Secretary Clash Over Charter School Rules
Miguel Cardona says the administration wants to ensure charters show wide community interest before securing federal funding.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, is seen during a White House event on April 27. The following day, he defended the Biden administration's budget proposal on Capitol Hill.
Susan Walsh/AP