HHS continues Head Start quality push, notifies grantees selected to compete for continued funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, December 19, 2011
Contact: Kenneth J. Wolfe
(202) 401-9215

Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified 132 Head Start grantees that they have been designated to compete for continued Head Start funding. Under new regulations announced by President Barack Obama in November 2011, grantees who do not meet quality thresholds established by the Office of Head Start will have to compete, for the first time ever, with other potential providers for Head Start funding.

“This administration is fully committed to ensuring that our Head Start children and families receive the highest quality services from the most capable organizations,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are holding programs to high standards for classroom quality and program integrity and today’s announcement sends a strong message that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

The new regulation, which went into effect Dec. 9, 2011 specifies seven conditions that HHS will consider to determine a program’s quality and if the grantee will be required to compete for continued funding.  This regulation helps direct taxpayer dollars to programs that offer high-quality Head Start services and works to ensure that Head Start programs provide the best available early education services to children in every community.

Funding announcements for these service areas will be posted on www.grants.gov in early 2012. HHS will only award funds to organizations that demonstrate they are the most qualified entity to deliver a high-quality and comprehensive Head Start program.

“Providing robust, open competition for Head Start funding will not only provide opportunities for new organizations to offer services, but it also increases the number of low-income children in high-quality care,” said Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, director for the Office of Head Start.

Over the next three years, all 1,600 Head Start grantees will be evaluated against these seven quality benchmarks that are transparent, research-based, and include standards for health and safety and fiscal integrity. Based on analysis of current program performance data, it is estimated that one-third of all grantees will be required to re-compete for continued funding within the three-year transition period established by the 2007 Head Start Act.

This new regulation is one more tool that HHS has to ensure that programs are providing the highest quality services to children and families. HHS still has statuary authority to suspend or terminate a grantee if it fails to correct problems identified through Head Start monitoring including areas related to the health and safety of children.

Since 2009, the Office of Head Start has taken historic steps and implemented bold reforms to strengthen accountability, hold programs to high standards and improve classroom quality for the million children receiving Head Start services each year.  High- quality early childhood education is critical for ensuring that every child enters school ready for success. Today’s announcement keeps our commitment to America’s most vulnerable children and continues to raise the bar for Head Start and the entire early education community.

Head Start provides grants to local organizations to provide comprehensive child development services to low-income children and families. Today, nearly 1,600 Head Start and Early Head Start grantees across the country provide early learning services to our nation’s most vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

For more information on the Office of Head Start visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/ or log onto Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center at http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc.

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Note: All ACF news releases, fact sheets and other materials are available at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/news.