Head Start Improving Quality through New Competitions, Greater Accountability in New York City

The Department of Health and Human Services this week is entering the next stage of strengthening quality and accountability in Head Start in New York City, beginning negotiations with approximately 21 local potential winners of a competition that, for the first time ever, required providers to show they are offering children the best early education services available in their community.  The negotiations with this first group of grantees are the next step in an ongoing process put in place by a new rule implemented by the Obama Administration that – for the first time – require all lower-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued federal funding.

“This Administration stands firm on improving the quality of services we deliver to New York’s most vulnerable children and families,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  "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."

Under the reforms announced by President Barack Obama in 2011, 125 Head Start grantees nationwide who did not meet quality thresholds established by the Office of Head Start were notified in Dec 2011 they had to compete with other potential providers for continued Head Start funding. 

These proposals were reviewed by a panel of independent early education professionals.  Approved applications were assessed by Certified Public Accountants to determine a potential grantee’s ability to achieve Head Start’s goals in their community.   

Based on these two phases of review, OHS is now in negotiations with 21 NYC organizations, including three of the five incumbents.  These and all other providers will be required to meet the education, health and safety, governance, and financial management conditions established by the Obama Administration to ensure that every Head Start child across the country receives consistent, high quality experiences.

Providers that competed for continued federal funding for health and safety issues are subject to annual unannounced monitoring visits to ensure they are living up to the higher health and safety standards they have laid out in their applications.  Failure to do so, or to comply with other federal performance standards, could result in termination of their grant. In addition to the new competitive process, all Head Start grants will now be administered over a five year period. All providers of Head Start services will be subject to strengthened grant terms and conditions implemented by the Obama Administration to ensure that every Head Start child across the country receives consistent, high-quality education and services.

“Moving these grants to a five-year competitive cycle is a key step in making sure all grantees, new and old, are providing the best possible services to vulnerable children across America," said OHS Director Yvette Sanchez-Fuentes.  "These agencies have demonstrated a strong plan in how they will serve their communities.  We’ll be closely monitoring each grantee to ensure they follow through on their promises."

The panel's initial selectees are now in negotiations with the Department of Health and Human Services.  Final grantees will be announced by July, once the negotiation process has ended. A full list of agencies currently in negotiations is available at

A list of only the NYC grantees currently in negotiations is available at http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/dr/prelim-1st-cohort-awardees.ht....

For more information on Head Start, please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/.