Senate Signals "No" on Administration's Head Start Proposal
By Crystal D. Swann
August 4, 2003
Chairman Judd Gregg (NH) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee indicated that the White House reauthorization proposal for the Head Start program has virtually no chance of becoming part of a bill to reauthorize the program, according to a July 29, Congressional Quarterly article. The House bill, HR 2210 the "School Readiness Act of 2003," passed the House July 25 by a vote of 217 to 216 was a hard fought victory for the bill's sponsor Rep. Michael Castle. The one-vote victory margin was seen as a strong signal to the Senate leadership that the proposal as written would be a difficult to move in the Senate.
The major area of concern centers on Title II of the bill which contains a block grant-like proposal that would allow no more than eight states to apply directly to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to receive Head Start funds in order to operate state or local area demonstration programs. The pilot eight states would be allowed to create their own early childhood programs that would focus on math and literacy skills. The Head Start program is currently a federal-to-local grant program for the provision of early childhood education and comprehensive services, including health, nutrition, parental involvement, social, and other services, for low-income preschool children and their families.
Senator James Jeffords, according to the Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, declared the Administration's proposal to overhaul Head Start "dead on arrival" in the Senate. Jeffords- stated similar concerns as Chairman Gregg and others, that any Senate bill must reflect a bipartisan strategy. Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Chris Dodd (CT), and Jeff Bingaman (NM) have all introduced Head Start legislation and each excludes the state block grant plan.
At the Conference of Mayors 71st Annual Meeting in Denver, the mayors adopted the "Head Start" policy resolution which opposes any attempts to dismantle or move the Head Start Program to the states. To view Conference policy resolutions for Head Start please visit usmayors.org/humanservices.