The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is working to strengthen quality and accountability in Head Start. For the first time ever, Head Start providers had to prove that they are providing the best early education services available in their community. A new rule implemented by the Obama Administration require that all lower-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued federal funding.
“It is our duty to ensure our nation’s federal dollars are only invested in the most effective programs – and that our children receive the best early education possible – in every community,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Under the reform, 125 Head Start grantees were notified in Dec 2011 that they had to compete with other potential providers for continued Head Start funding. All competitors had to submit proposals detailing how they would deliver high-quality early childhood services, and the proposals were evaluated by a panel of independent early childhood professionals and CPAs.
Out of the 125 providers required to compete for continued funding, 80 were successful in documenting their improvements and plans to provide high quality services and will continue to receive federal funding. Twenty-five existing providers will be replaced by new programs and an additional 14 existing grantees will see their grants split up between new and existing providers. In the remaining competitions, no applications were found to meet the panel’s high standards, so Head Start services will continue while a new competition begins this spring to find a new provider.
A second group of Head Start grantees was notified in January that they will need to compete for future funding as well. The competitive process will open to the public this spring. HHS will continue to continue to hold competitions on an ongoing basis for grantees who do not meet quality thresholds.