April 3, 2013; Source:Education Week
NPQ has previously covered the fact that 132 Head Start providers were identified as low performing by the Department of Health and Human Services and that they would be required to go through competitive rebidding. Seven programs were eventually removed from that group of 132, leaving 125 required to compete. This was the first time that Head Start providers have been asked to reapply for federal funds, although the agency has a stringent auditing and review process.
Today, the Office of Head Start announced that 25 of these have lost their entire service areas. An additional 14 programs have had their money partially re-allocated to other bidders, and 80 programs have been regranted their funds at previous levels. The process will add grantees making 160 prospective providers where there were previously 125. There were six cases where the current Head Start grantee had no competition but still did not pass muster; and in these cases, the competition will be reopened in the spring. There are still steps to be taken before prospective grantees are confirmed, and so the final list of grantees will not be available until July.
Meanwhile, Head Start programs across the country are struggling with how they can make the required 5.3 percent cuts to their programs forced by sequestration. It is estimated that as many as 70,000 children nationwide will lose access to Head Start, and 14,000 staff will be laid off. Many programs are attempting to minimize the numbers of student slots that will be cut, but their options are limited.
In Florida, Hillsborough County’s Head Start program is looking at a cut of $1.4 million, forcing it to close four playgrounds and delay purchasing vehicles, hoping that some late-action legislation may forestall the need for other cuts. For this, Congress would need to pass a modification to sequestration in the form of a final resolution. Many other programs, however, have begun to plan to reduce the number of slots available or shorten the school day and lay off staff.–Ruth McCambridge