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Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S.
House of Representatives
New HHS Report Offers Mixed Results on Accountability in Head Start, Raises New Question
D.C. – U.S.
House Education & the Workforce committee leaders today called
attention to the results of a Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
inquiry, requested by congressional leaders last year, resulting from
growing bipartisan concern in Congress about reported financial abuses and
a lack of accountability in the federal Head Start early childhood
program. The congressionally-requested inquiry “brought additional
management issues to light” with respect to Head Start, said HHS
Secretary Tommy Thompson in letter sent to Capitol Hill last night.
results of this inquiry suggest that while many Head Start grantees are
taking pains to ensure federal Head Start funds are spent directly on
disadvantaged children, others are not,” said Rep. John Boehner (R-OH),
the committee’s chairman. “Families, teachers, taxpayers, and Head
Start grantees across the nation who are doing good work deserve to know
where the bad apples are. We commend Secretary Thompson and his Department
for taking steps to improve accountability in the Head Start program, and
look forward to continuing to work with the administration toward this
goal for our nation’s most disadvantaged children.”
appreciate this report because it helps us to gain a better understanding
of what is being spent on salaries, travel and other compensation, and
displays that these abuses aren't a uniform occurrence across the
nation,” said Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), chairman of the Education Reform
Subcommittee. “The Head Start agencies who are diverting funding away
from disadvantaged children for their own gain should reform their
practices at once and the other agencies who are truly putting our
children first must continue to serve as an example. I will continue to
work with my colleagues to push reform legislation to reign in
inappropriate spending and to help states become more involved in decision
making at these centers."
results of the HHS inquiry, sent to Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening,
reveal a wide
summary of the findings reported to Congress by HHS:
U.S. House last year passed legislation by Rep. Castle (H.R. 2210, the
School Readiness Act) that would permit federal Head Start funds to be
used by local grantees for meeting and/conference travel only if similar
training or technical assistance is not available locally. The bill would
also allow up to eight qualified states to assume a greater role in
financial oversight of Head Start operations within their borders in
exchange for a pledge to increase early childhood education spending and
meet or exceed high standards.
In January 2004, the National Head Start Association went to court in an attempt to deny HHS from collecting and publicly disclosing the data provided in the new report. The National Head Start Association’s motion was rejected soundly by a federal judge, and the inquiry proceeded. HHS initiated the inquiry in response to growing pressure by Congress and the public after a series of 2003 press accounts documenting the apparent abuse of millions of dollars in federal Head Start funds, including a Kansas City Star report that revealed such funds were used to provide a local executive (who has since stepped down) with a $300,000 annual salary and a leased Mercedes sport-utility vehicle.
funding for Head Start has nearly doubled since Republicans took control
of the House in 1995, increasing from $3.6 billion annually in FY 1996 to
a projected $6.8 billion this year under the FY 2004 omnibus spending bill
passed by the House in December.
Head Start program has been rocked by a series of unrelated incidents of
significant financial abuse and waste. As the New York Times reported
recently, "[t]he reports of improprieties have surfaced at a number
of Head Start programs. One in Charleston, S.C., is under F.B.I.
investigation, accused of failing to account for $10.5 million since 1998.
Another program, in Kansas City, Mo., is reportedly paying $300,000 a year
to its executive director as well as using federal money to lease a
Mercedes for him." (Diana Jean Schemo, "Republicans Urge Inquiry
in Head Start," The New York Times, November 25, 2003) In San
Antonio, Tx., questions have also been raised by the local media about the
huge disparity between the salary paid to the local Head Start grantee's
top official and the teachers who work for the program. Other incidents
have been brought to light in Nevada, Hawaii, New Mexico, Utah, Arkansas,
West Virginia , and other locations.
most other federally-funded programs, Head Start does not give state
authorities any meaningful role in financial oversight, a situation many
believe has helped to encourage the misuse of Head Start funds.
Republicans have said more must be done to address the school readiness
gap between Head Start children and their peers when they reach
kindergarten. Studies indicate children graduating from Head Start begin
kindergarten more than 25 percentile points below average in school
readiness skills such as letter, shape and number recognition. Closing
this gap is a major goal of H.R. 2210.
information on efforts to strengthen and reform Head Start is available
This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.