On May 2, 2007, the House passed the Improving Head Start Act, H.R. 1429, which will help more children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed by improving program quality and expanding access to more children. The bill was signed into law on December 12, 2007.
Head Start has been the premiere early education program in this country for more than 40 years, serving more than 20 million children and families in that time. Its goal is to help children from very low-income families reach kindergarten ready to succeed. Head Start is a critical part of this country's effort to combat the effects of poverty and ensure all of our children have the opportunity and skills they need to thrive.
The Improving Head Start Act:
- Improves Classroom and Teacher Quality - Increases teacher qualifications and directs the majority of new funds for program improvement activities, including significant new funds to increase teacher salaries.
- Expands Access - Authorizes $450 million in new funding for fiscal year 2008 which would provide up to 10,000 more children access to the program, prioritizing expansion of the Early Head Start program and expanding services to additional Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and Indian Head Start programs.
- Strengthens the Focus on School Readiness - Ensures all programs use research-based practices to support the growth of children's pre-literacy and vocabulary skills and improves professional development and classroom practices to better support children's cognitive, social, and emotional development.
- Ends Inappropriate Testing of 4-Year Olds - Prohibits further use of the National Reporting System, a badly flawed unprecedented testing system developed by HHS that was denounced by child development experts and that drained money and time from Head Start classrooms.
- Promotes Stronger Accountability - Increases the fiscal controls used by Head Start at the Federal and local levels to better ensure Head Start funds are used appropriately and efficiently and requires underperforming programs to recompete for their grants to ensure that underperforming programs are either replaced or quickly improved.
- Ensures Parental Participation in Program Governance - Maintains the existing shared governance structure between parent policy councils and governing boards to help empower Head Start parents and allow programs to be responsive to local needs.
- Fortifies Comprehensive Services - Places greater emphasis on early identification of child and family mental health needs and requires Head Start to decrease childhood obesity in its students.
Head Start has served our most vulnerable children and families extremely well for over 40 years, and more recently, Early Head Start has done the same for infants and toddlers. These children and their families receive comprehensive educational, family support, health and nutritional services that enable them to do well in school and in life. Head Start has been proven to work; this bill will make the program even better at providing all of our children the chance to succeed.