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What About States That Do Not Participate in the State Option?
For those states that do not elect to participate in the state option, the Bush Administration will continue the Good Start, Grow Smart initiatives currently being implemented to ensure cognitive development for children in Head Start and provide training for Head Start teachers. In addition, the President proposes several changes to the Head Start program for those states that do not participate in the state option
Specifically, the current Head Start Act does not offer the flexibility to target funds where they are needed most. The statute requires that at least two percent of the amount appropriated must be set aside for training and technical assistance, with fifty percent of these funds flowing directly to grantees to use in purchasing training and technical assistance services. Training and technical assistance resources have grown considerably in recent years and considerable investments have been made in Head Start training resources apart from the set-aside funds. However, Head Start enrollment and Head Start grantees have increased only slightly. Under the President's proposal, the set-aside language in the Act would be modified from "at least" two percent to "up to" two percent. This will afford the Secretary with more discretionary authority to allocate these resources each year in a manner that would maximize the benefit to children and families.
Similarly, additional flexibility is needed to better target the quality improvement funds provided under the Act. First, this proposal would provide the Secretary with flexibility to expend up to 25 percent of funds resulting from any increased appropriations to quality improvements. In addition, this proposal would provide flexibility on what portion of these funds should be allocated to improving compensation for classroom teachers and Head Start staff and authorize the Secretary to use a portion of the quality improvement funds to reward high-performing programs.
In keeping with the Bush Administration's commitment to improved quality and accountability, a focus on child outcomes and a yearly training and technical assistance review would be included as part of the Secretary's responsibility for monitoring Head Start agencies. This change provides a proactive approach to ensuring the continuous quality improvement of all grantees and delegate agencies and reflects a commitment to capacity building and evaluation. This approach will allow for the identification and quick response to new and emerging issues and challenges confronting Head Start agencies, while also helping Head Start agencies devise annual plans consistent with their service needs.
Finally, this proposal supports a greater degree of collaboration between all early child care providers, including Head Start, in the provision of early childhood education services. As part of the collaboration grant process, a central point in the Governor's office would be created to establish a meaningful link between Head Start and other statewide partners in order to ensure that services for children and families are delivered in a more holistic manner and work to further the goal of school readiness for all children.
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