(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously agreed to a reauthorization proposal that would save Head Start from being dismantled. The Senate bill rejects an irresponsible House-passed proposal to block-grant Head Start funding to the states, where the program's high standards could be degraded.
In early June, under questioning from Sen. Murray as to why block granting would be the best option for Head Start, a Bush Administration witness from the Department of Education told HELP Committee members: "We really do not have rigorous studies that speak either to the impact of Head Start as currently delivered or to the impact of state programs."
Rather than dismantle the highly successful 38 year old program, the bill passed by the Senate HELP Committee's yesterday would add $400 million a year for the next three years to strengthen and expand Head Start services.
Murray also expressed her serious concerns about the testing being implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate three and four year old children in Head Start programs. Murray, a former pre-school teacher, promised to work through the legislative process to address this inappropriate use of testing.
Senator Murray released the following statement:
"The Senate HELP Committee said no to Head Start block grants and yes to protecting the needs of our most vulnerable children. I am proud of our bipartisan effort to build on Head Start's 38 years of success in early education and to make a good program even better.
The House-passed plan to block grant Head Start would have gutted a successful program – with needy children paying the price. The House's plan would not have helped get any of the thousands of children on waiting lists into Head Start classrooms. And it would not have provided a single additional child with a strong foundation for learning or the health services and parent support to help him or her get ahead.
Underprivileged kids should not be guinea pigs for ideological experiments in block-granting and testing.
As anyone who has spent time in a room with three year olds can tell you, the results of testing will vary depending on what they've had for breakfast, who is sitting next to them or who is playing with their favorite toy. Using those results to determine whether or not a program is funded is unconscionable. I will continue to work to with my colleagues in the Senate to address this absurd plan.
As the only former pre-school teacher in the Senate, I feel a personal obligation to stand up for our children. And standing up for children – particularly our most vulnerable children – means standing up for Head Start."