WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee introduced legislation to reform the early childhood education program known as Head Start. The Head Start Improvement Act is intended to produce better results by offering states and parents greater flexibility to tailor the program to meet the specific needs of low-income children. A 2012 study by the Obama administration showed that, despite spending $8.6 billion per year on education, health, nutrition, and other services, the program produced no lasting benefits.
“Underprivileged children need access to good education, and the scientific evidence shows the federal government does a lousy job of providing it,” Senator Lee said. “Education reform should empower principals, teachers and parents, instead of centralizing power and money in political bureaucracies. This bill would allow states, communities, schools, and families to better tailor pre-K programs to the specific needs of each eligible child.”
Confronted with the obvious failures of government programs, many states are already looking at ways to better serve their low-income populations. For example, the Utah state legislature has created a special task force to study the prospects of “charity care” – affordable medical services for poor families provided not by government but by individuals, businesses, non-profit groups, and local communities.
“The Utah Model might not work in every state, but every state should have the freedom to solve problems their own way, according to their own values and priorities,” Lee added.
How it Works:
- Provides Head Start block grants directly to eligible grantees, which include states, territories and federally recognized Indian tribes.
- Restores the responsibility to each recipient grantee to define what entities within their state would be eligible to receive sub-grants; award sub-grants to those eligible entities; establish rules and standards for the entities awarded sub-grants; and monitor compliance with state rules and standards
- Eligible grantees receive an allotment of the Head Start funds in proportion to the number of children aged 5 and younger from families with incomes below 130% of the poverty line residing within their State.
- Eligible grantees must provide a 20% match to all Federal Head Start funds granted, consistent with current law.
- All funds must be used for prekindergarten education, administration of the programs, and to provide direct technical assistance, oversight, monitoring, research and training.
What it Does:
- Puts more money in the classroom instead of the Washington bureaucracy
- Gives states and local officials and parents greater control over improving the Head Start program
- Ensures the program will better serve the interest of low-income families with young children