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LOGA Letter to Congress regarding Head Start programs

 

July 2, 2003

The Honorable
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

Dear Representative

On behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America we are writing to express our opposition to Title II of H.R. 2210, the School Readiness Act of 2003, as passed by the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a church of more than five million members and approximately 11,000 congregations scattered throughout the United States of America.  Our affiliated Lutheran social service agencies, according to The Nonprofit Times, are the largest providers of human services in the nation.  Our congregations are often hosts to Head Start programs and our affiliated agencies also run Head Start programs.  Currently 115 Head Start programs are sponsored by faith-based organizations.

We are pleased to see the many improvements made to the Head Start Program in Title I of H.R. 2210.  We also support keeping the Head Start Program at the Department for Health and Human Services rather than moving it to the Department of Education.  However, we believe the provisions in Title II will likely prevent our most vulnerable children from having an early learning experience that will leave them ready to learn or be successful in school.

We oppose turning the Head Start program over to the states.  Evaluations have given high marks to Head Start for 40 years.  It isn’t broken.  Even though the legislation limits the optional block grant to eight states, we are concerned about the direction for the future.  Historically funding for block grants of this nature has either stagnated or been reduced.  The Social Services Block Grant is an example.  In addition, moving the program to the states will add another level of bureaucracy increasing administrative costs. 

A provision that participating states must “generally” meet performance standards of the current program is vague and difficult to enforce and is likely to dilute the current comprehensive services provided under the current Head Start program.  The bill also decreases the amount of funding reserved for training and technical assistance changing the language from “no less than 2 percent” to “no more than 2 percent”

We are also concerned that the legislation shows a lack of commitment to our country’s migrant and seasonal farmworker families who will be sadly underserved if this legislation is adopted.

Finally, we are supportive of the improvements made to teacher quality by requiring 50 percent of Head Start teachers to have a B.A. or advanced degree in early childhood education by 2008.  However, no new funds are provided to enable this to happen.  In fact the House Labor/HHS/Ed Appropriations subcommittee increased Head Start funding by only $148 million, barely enough to cover the cost-of-living increase needed for next year and less than the amount authorized in H.R. 2210.

If you have any questions, or would like to meet with us please call Kay Bengston (202) 626-7942.

Sincerely,

Karen Vagley                                                                                                                                        Kay Bengston

Director                                                                                                                                                  Assistant Director-Domestic Policy

 

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