Say “NO” to the Head Start Improvement Act 2017 (H.R. 1921)

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The Head Start Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1921) proposes to “improve” the Head Start program via block grants that give states full control over the program. While the intention of this legislation continues to support Head Start programs, there is great concern regarding the appropriation of funds once the State is given authority over its use. Proposed changes to the funding structure could significantly impact educators, as well as the local decision-making that is integral to the success of Head Start.

Head Start maintains a steady positive impact on the early development of children from low-income and underserved families for the past 50 years. According to research cited by the National Head Start Association (2017), Head Start has proven positive impacts on school readiness, social-emotional and cognitive development, and impulse control before the time children enter kindergarten, and continues to persist throughout the child’s education into adulthood. Head Start children have been shown to have fewer attention problems, fewer negative behaviors, better cognitive and social-emotional skills, and lower mortality rates, are less likely to smoke, be arrested, or charged with a crime; more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and maintain better health.

The proposed legislation raises concerns on how individual States will appropriate federal block grants when setting individual State Head Start performance standards.This could lead to varying levels of quality in services provided that could have a negative impact on child outcomes and decrease the return on the federal investment. This legislation would also add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy in state administration, resulting in fewer direct services for children and families. Transferring local community control to state bureaucracy would decrease the flexibility that communities need to meet local needs, and likely result in states impeding the local innovation, alignment, and coordination that is currently standard practice. The current federal-to-local funding structure supports children's long-term success by giving them access to services tailored by their local community in order to meet their unique needs (National Head Start Association, 2017).

As supporters of Head Start Program, we are concerned that the changes proposed in Head Start Improvement Act of 2017 (S.185 and H.R. 1921) are not in the best interests of the children, families, and communities served by Head Start. We ask for you to join in supporting our effort to advocate against moving this legislation forward in Congress. Your support is integral to protecting the integrity of State’s using federal funds for Head Start to ensure the some of our most at risk children are receiving the support they need to succeed. Say “NO” to the Head Start Improvement Act 2017!

Rachel Fortini OTS, KeVonte Cockrill OTS, Hendryx Silva OTS, & Brain Harold OTS

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