The National Head Start Association last week accused the Bush administration of trying to dismantle local Head Start programs by identifying “bogus” infractions within them.
During a March 24 press conference, Ron Herndon, the chairman of the NHSA board, alleged that program inspectors working on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services have been instructed to find violations in every program. Deficiencies cited included a fire hazard caused by crumbs in a toaster oven at one site and a choking hazard posed by leaves on the playground at another, Mr. Herndon said.
“This is about trashing as many Head Start programs as possible,” he contended.
Federal lawmakers and the NHSA have traded barbs in recent months over the management of local Head Start programs, which help prepare poor children for kindergarten.
Two recent reports, one by the Government Accountability Office that criticized oversight of Head Start programs and one by House Republicans citing serious financial mismanagement at local programs, have fueled the dispute. The HHS Administration for Children and Families, which oversees Head Start, did not respond to a request for comment about the NHSA’s charges.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee has scheduled an April 5 hearing on Head Start management issues.