CHN: Head Start Reauthorization Moves in House
Legislation re-authorizing Head Start, known as The School Readiness Act (H.R. 2123), passed the House of Representatives September 22. Head Start provides education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families, serving nearly one million poor children. The 40-year-old program was funded at $6.8 billion last year. The bill passed the House 231-184, with most Democrats voting against the bill.
The bill makes a number of changes to the program, including requiring more stringent financial reporting by operators of the program; increasing teacher training requirements; and requiring Head Start operators to meet local academic standards for curriculum. Unlike a very controversial bill passed by the House two years ago, H.R. 2123 does not change the funding structure of the program. (That bill, which eventually died in the Senate, would have dismantled Head Start by turning it into a block grant program.)
Advocates for the Head Start program praised some provisions of the bill, but continue to have some concerns. The bill does not include enough funding to pay for the increased teacher training requirements.
One of the most controversial aspects of the bill was the adoption of an amendment offered by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) that allowed faith-based providers to select candidates for the federally funded program based on religious beliefs. Under current law, religious organizations can operate such programs, but they are barred from using religion as a criterion in staffing Head Start.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee approved a Head Start reauthorization bill (S. 1107) on May 25, 2005, but it is not clear when the bill will get to the Senate floor for a vote.
National Head Start Association Statement