WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)-Head Start children from D.C.’s Rosemont Center joined the Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) on Capitol Hill in the fight to save Head Start from the Bush administration’s reorganization.
“As we consider the future of one of the most effective federal programs in this country, we also will be determining the future of this nation’s most important resources–our children,” said Rep. Cummings.
“What gets lost in the countless number of policy papers, press releases, facts and figures, is who these children really are. All too often, we lose sight of the fact that each child in Head Start has the potential to be a future doctor, lawyer, teacher, or even President,” he said.
The proposed bill to reorganize Head Start would increase learning standards for pre- kindergarteners, require more teachers to have college training and improve performance-monitoring centers.
In addition, it offers an experiment, providing up to eight states the freedom to manage their federal Head Start money so they could better coordinate the program with other pre-school efforts.
Head Start advocates and House Democratic members are opposed to the changes citing that a reduction in the role of government would weaken the program and allow states to divert their monies for other uses.
The nearly 40-year-old anti-poverty program escaped its first vote in the House of Representatives July 17 when the vote was postponed due to scheduling conflicts and low voter turnout.
The additional time gives Republicans a chance to gain more votes in what is predicted to be a contentious battle.
Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) said July 16 that a substitute bill offered by Democrat leaders and some Head Start lobbyists would not eliminate the school readiness gap between disadvantaged preschool-age children and their more affluent peers.
In fact, Rep. Boehner noted, many of the most vocal opponents of strengthening the academic components of Head Start have indicated they believe Head Start children are incapable of achieving the same level of school readiness as their non-Head Start counterparts–a presumption President George W. Bush has condemned throughout his presidency as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
“The Democrat substitute would prolong the school readiness gap between Head Start children and their more fortunate peers. It does absolutely nothing to improve coordination between state early education programs and Head Start, despite overwhelming evidence that fragmentation between state programs and Head Start is preventing disadvantaged children from getting the services they truly deserve,” Rep. Boehner said.
“These children deserve nothing less than the best this nation can offer them – but sadly, some in Congress and the lobbying community believe protecting turf is more important than protecting children.”
Rep. Cummings disagrees.
“Head Start has been proven, time and time again, to be a sound preparation for school. Numerous studies confirm that Head Start is successful. They find that children who have graduated from Head Start are: less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to need special education services and, more likely to graduate from high school.
“And, these benefits do not fade out over time. The research shows that Head Start children have obtained lasting educational benefits from the program. That is why the 39 members of the Congressional Black Caucus have called on the President and Congressional Republicans not to turn their back on the more than 300,000 African American, 200,000 White, 18,000 Asian, and 300,000 Hispanic children that are currently enrolled in the federal Head Start program.”
Established in 1965, the Head Start program was born out of the civil rights era to provide academic, social and nutritional help to roughly one million children a year. Today, almost 70 percent of children enrolled in the program are minorities, including about one-third who are Black.