WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), released the following statement today in response to President Bush’s visit to Highland Park Elementary School in Landover, Maryland. The House Republican Head Start plan, endorsed by the President, would turn a successful, federal-to-local program into a state-led experiment on low-income children.
“The President came to Maryland today to talk about ‘how to make sure Head Start works,’ and I embrace many of the high quality bipartisan improvements called for in the bill. However, while the President noted that the House bill would increase the educational quality of the Head Start program by sharpening the program’s focus on pre-literacy, language, and pre-math skills and increasing the educational requirements for teachers, in reality the President’s proposal to devolve the Head Start program in eight states to state control would undermine most of these quality improvements.
“The House Republican bill is not the solution to improving the school readiness of low-income children, it is no better than a misguided experiment. State pre-school programs are untested and unproven, and there is no research indicating that state pre-kindergarten programs produce better results than Head Start. In fact, the No Child Left Behind Act, the landmark bipartisan education bill that was designed to increase standards and accountability, was crafted because states did not have high standards and tough accountability for the educational achievement of low-income children.
“The Republican approach is flawed: the removal of the high standards and accountability in the Head Start program will only exacerbate the same achievement gap between low-income children and more affluent peers that the bill claims to address.
“In addition, The Republican block grant bill guts the quality comprehensive services by requiring that states provide health, parent, nutritional and social services, but making no reference to the Head Start regulations that currently determine the quality of those services in Head Start centers.
“This is another classic GOP ‘bait and switch’ plan which promises to improve the educational development content of Head Start program but includes almost none of those improvements to be implemented by block grant states in the plan. The ultimate result is that children and parents will suffer with fewer guaranteed services, lower quality programs and weaker educational performance standards during a period of economic instability when parents are already struggling. The GOP demise of Head Start will not make quality improvements to this program, and undermines the quality of services for our children.”