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NATIONAL HEAD START ASSOCIATION STATEMENT ON NEW STUDY DETAILING MAJOR SHORTCOMINGS OF STATE PRE-K PROGRAMS

NATIONAL HEAD START ASSOCIATION STATEMENT ON NEW STUDY DETAILING MAJOR SHORTCOMINGS OF STATE PRE-K PROGRAMS
NIEER Report Is Powerful Indictment of Proposals to "Dismantle" Head Start and Turn It Over to States

WASHINGTON, D.C. - National Head Start Association (NHSA) President and CEO Sarah Greene issued the following statement today:

"The independent and unbiased report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released today on state pre-K program completely vindicates those who have argued that the vast majority of states are unprepared to take on the job of running Head Start or replacement Head Start programs under the block grant program envisioned by House Republicans and President Bush.

As the new report notes: '... state preschool programs are failing the nation's children. Few set high standards and fewer still provide adequate funding. Even the disadvantaged children targeted by most state preschool initiatives are not assured of access to high-quality programs. Most children and their family receive even less help. Children's learning and development suffers as a result.'

Those would dismantle Head Start need to take the findings of this report to heart, particularly the following major conclusions:

* State pre-school program quality standards are lacking. No state pre-K program met all of the report's 10 quality standards. The report states: 'All states needed to improve their quality standards. State quality standards varied widely. Most states do not meet a majority of our research-based benchmarks for minimum state standards.'

* Only three states -- Oklahoma, Georgia and New Jersey's 'Abbott District' program -- were found to have even generally adequate pre-school programs. This finding is very much in line with the April 16, 2003 National Head Start Association white paper, 'Dismantling Head Start,' which cited similar research by professors Carol Ripple and Walter Gilliam in pointing out: 'Only three states -- Delaware, Oregon and Washington -- were found to provide the same set of eight comprehensive services required of Hard Start programs, primarily because they adopted a variation of performance standards.' The new report from NIEER states: 'Overall, we find that quality standards varied tremendously from state to state. Unlike Head Start, a federal program that sets consistent standards for classrooms across the U.S., state-financed preschool programs differed widely in terms of personnel requirements, maximum allowable class size, the services provided to children and families, and pro! gram standards.'

* State support for early childhood education is extremely thin. According to the report, 10 states account for 83 percent of ALL spending on such programs. Only two states -- Oklahoma and Georgia -- even seek to provide universal access to preschool. Only two states support pre-K with spending per child at the same level as Head Start. The report states: 'On average, the federal Head Start programs received nearly $3,500 more per child than states provided to their preschool programs.'

NHSA also agrees with the findings of the NIEER report that teacher salaries in Head Start classrooms are too low and that more funds are needed to get more degreed teachers into the Head Start program.

On November 25, 2004, NHSA warned that pending U.S. House and Senate bills do nothing to alleviate the 'Head Start pay scandal' of low teacher salaries under which the average Head Start teacher was paid only $21,000 in the 2000-2001 program year, compared to public school teachers earning about twice that at $43,000. Even worse, both bills create an 'unfunded B.A. mandate' by requiring higher degrees but then failing to provide funding for scholarships and more competitive salaries for teachers. Under the Senate bill, Head Start programs actually would be threatened with defunding if Head Start teachers fail to get the higher degrees.

We are all for higher Head Start teacher pay and educational achievement. However, we would be remiss if we failed to point out that Congress needs to make these things happen."

— Commentary from Education News

NATIONAL HEAD START ASSOCIATION STATEMENT ON NEW STUDY DETAILING MAJOR SHORTCOMINGS OF STATE PRE-K PROGRAMS

2004-02-20

http://www.educationnews.org/national-head-start-association.htm

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