Reform: Head Start "Recompete" Prompts Familiar Debate
There've been a couple of interesting stories recently about the Head Start "recompete" initiative, in which low-rated grantees are no longer automatically given continued funding as they have been in the past.
The first piece, focused on a center in DC, is from TNR and takes a pretty strong view that the crackdown is hurting programs that aren't really that bad (How Obama’s Latest Education Initiative Could Threaten American Preschool). It notes that while mandates are being eased in NCLB through waivers they're being ratcheted up in Head Start [and teacher prep, too, BTW]. It predicts that the recompetition "will inevitably result in lost jobs, displaced students, and disrupted neighborhoods" because of "minor bureaucratic matters." It generated this response from Sara Mead (False Fears on Head Start Recompete), noting that grantees aren't simply being defunded and that the program is in desperate need of upgrading. (I would also note that Head Start grantees and advocates are extremely effective at getting their voices heard.) The second story, focusing on New Haven, is from Claudio Sanchez at NPR (Under Scrutiny, Some Head Start Programs In Limbo).
Even if you don't care much about early childhood education it's worth tracking what's going on here because the debate is mirror for K-12 accountability efforts. Are the programs being rated fairly, or being dinged for all sorts of unusual circumstances? Is the problem too little oversight over funding, or too little funding? Should the program be run from Washington or should states and communities do the work? Can programs rally to fight off de-funding, or sue against it?