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Yesterday, President Obama signed yet another executive order, this time for the Head Start Program, as apart of what he’s calling the “We Can’t Wait” campaign. This move once again by-passing what has been described as a do nothing Congress. The President visited a Head Start program in a suburb of Philadelphia on yesterday in an effort to show his support towards education and reforming the school systems across America. In his efforts to retool the Head Start Program, Obama announced new benchmarks that will evaluate and challenge the effectiveness of the Head Start program that also includes a new plan to force all low-performing Head Start programs to re-compete for federal dollars that they receive each year.
The Heard Start Programs federal contribution in its 2010 fiscal years budget was $7.2 billion. It also received an additional $2.1 billion as part of the Recovery Act. President Obama said “We know that three and four-year olds who go to high-quality preschools, including our best Head Start programs, are less likely to repeat a grade; they’re less likely to need special education; they’re more likely to graduate from high school than the peers who did not get these services,”. “And so this makes early education one of our best investments in America’s future.”
From 2009 to 2010, the Heard Start Program and its subsidiary program Early Head Start served more than 1 million children and pregnant women. The program focuses on providing assistance in the areas of education, nutrition, health, parent involvement and family support to low-income and at risk communities. 80% of the program’s funding comes from the federal government with the remaining 20% coming from a combination of in-kind and local match funds from the communities at large.
President Obama said that “Under the old rules governing Head Start, there just wasn’t enough accountability,”. “If a program wasn’t providing kids with quality services, there was no incentive to improve. Under the new rule, programs are going to be regularly evaluated against a set of clear, high standards. If a program meets these standards, and we believe the majority of Head Start programs will, then their grants will be renewed.” “But if a program isn’t giving children the support they need to be ready for school, if classrooms are unsafe, if finances aren’t in order, if kids aren’t learning what they need to learn, then other organizations will be able compete for that grant. We’re not just going to put money into programs that don’t work. We will take money and put them into programs that do,”.
Although President Obama believes that Congress still needs to fix the No Child Left Behind initiative, he’s wasting no time push his agenda for change. President Obama says, “Congress still needs to put teachers back in the classroom where they belong. So Congress still needs to act. But if Congress continues to stand only for dysfunction and delay, then I’m going to move ahead without them.”