Congress Passes New Head Start Legislation
Nov 26, 2007
Last week, both the House and Senate approved a Head Start reauthorization bill that focuses on serving younger children, includes new language to increase the quality of services, and improves collaboration between early childhood programs at the state and local levels. The bipartisan bill, Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 ends years of discussion and debate about the future of Head Start.
However, while the bill authorizes funding levels that would support the positive changes in the bill, these levels must be appropriated each year. In FY 2008, the bill authorizes $7.35 billion, a substantial increase from current year funding, yet the most recent version of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill vetoed by the President provides only a $154 million increase for Head Start. For future years, the bill authorizes $7.65 billion for FY 2009, $7.995 billion for FY 2010 and such sums as necessary for FY 2011 and FY 2012. Without funding at these levels, Head Start will be unable to implement the changes in the bill.
The Head Start reauthorization bill includes the following provisions:
Expands Access to Head Start Programs
- Increases funding for both the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program and the Indian Head Start program.
- Allows up to 35 percent of the children served by a grantee to have family incomes between 100 percent and 130 percent of the federal poverty level if the grantee can demonstrate that children with family incomes below 100 percent of poverty are already being fully served.
- Ensures that children with disabilities are promptly identified and served.
- Allows part-day Head Start programs the flexibility to convert to full-day year-round services.
Strengthens and Expands Early Head Start
- Requires that half of all new funds be used for Early Head Start expansion.
- Provides existing Head Start programs the flexibility to convert slots currently used to serve preschoolers to those for infants and toddlers.
- Requires a minimum of at least one full-time infant and toddler specialist in every state.
- Sets new standards for home visitors in Early Head Start programs.
- Increases credentials Early Head Start teachers providing direct services to children and families.
Invests in Quality
- Requires programs that are not meeting high quality standards to recompete for their grant using an application review process developed by an expert panel, which will consider multiple measures of program performance.
- Requires all Head Start teachers to have an Associate s degree by 2011 and half of all teachers nationally to have at least a Bachelor s degree in early childhood education or a Bachelor s degree with coursework equivalent to a major relating to early childhood education and experience teaching preschool-age children by 2013.
- Establishes Centers of Excellence program that will identify high-quality grantees to serve as models for early childhood programs in their communities and states.
- Sets-aside 40 percent of new Head Start funds for quality enhancements in programs, including salary increases for Head Start staff.
- Requires all curriculum specialists to have at least a Bachelor s degree and all Head Start assistant teachers to have at least a child development associate credential and be working toward completing a degree within two years.
- Requires all Head Start teachers to have at least 15 hours of in-service training every year.
- Requires states to create State Advisory Councils on Early Education and Care in order to determine needs across programs serving children birth to six and to develop recommendations for collaboration between early childhood programs, data collection, review of early learning standards and professional development for educators that cross program auspices.
- Provides new Early Education and Care federal incentive grants (if new funds are available) to states to promote the development and expansion of state early education systems.
- Maintains and expands Head State Collaboration Offices in each state.
- Creates State Training Offices for Head Start.