Scott Statement on Final Rule for Head Start Performance Standards

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, issued the following statement after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final rule updating program performance standards for how Head Start programs will carry out education, health care and social services for low-income children and their families.  The new standards take a holistic approach and update the structure, rules and governance requirements for local head start program providers across the nation. The final rule sets an expectation that participating children will have access to a full day Head Start program for the full school year by August 2021.

“I applaud the action taken by the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that children enrolled in Head Start programs receive the necessary hours of learning time needed to guarantee they are emotionally and cognitively ready for kindergarten. Parents will have more opportunity for job stability because they are now assured their children are in a safe and nurturing environment during the work day.  But make no mistake, high quality early learning environments are not cheap and many providers will need additional resources to implement certain requirements, such as extending the learning day. As we consider budget priorities, Congress will need to fully fund Head Start programs around the country, so that all eligible children will have the opportunity to attend high-quality Head Start programs and begin their path toward obtaining a college and career-ready education.”

Additional Details from the Department of Health and Human Services

The bipartisan Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 called for a review and revision of the HSPPS to ensure that all Head Start programs provide high quality, comprehensive services, and for the development of new, research-based education performance standards related to school readiness for Head Start children.  ACF issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in June of 2015 and received 1,000 comments on the proposed standards.  The new program performance standards incorporate key feedback and set a high bar for Head Start quality.  The new HSPPS put in place higher standards based on years of research and effective practice in Head Start, providing for effective teaching, staff professional development, and high-quality curriculum in Head Start; strong parent engagement and involvement in programs; comprehensive health services and child safety; effective management; and a full school day and year of services for all Head Start children.  At the same time, the new program performance standards make program requirements easier for current and future program leaders to understand and reduce administrative burden so that Head Start directors can focus on delivering high quality comprehensive early learning programs that help put children onto a path of success. 

This rule builds on previous work from this Administration to strengthen Head Start. Beginning with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which invested $2.1 billion in Head Start and Early Head Start to reach an additional 61,000 children and families, the President has made quality improvements in the Head Start program a high priority. This was followed by actions in 2011 to require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding. In 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services issued new eligibility rules that ensure Head Start serves our neediest and most vulnerable children.

Beginning in 2014, Congress appropriated funding to create Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships and fund additional Early Head Start Expansion, including $635 million in 2016. In addition, in 2016, Congress provided $294 million to increase the number of Head Start children who attend a program that provides a full school day and full school year of early learning.  The President has requested additional funding for 2017 to build on this progress of expanding full school day and year offerings in Head Start, consistent with the new requirements in this rule.

Head Start has long been a leader in providing comprehensive high-quality early learning opportunities, having served more than 33 million low-income children and their families over the last fifty years.  But Head Start can and must do more.  Findings from monitoring reviews and research confirm that there is significant variation in quality among Head Start programs and stronger outcomes are achievable.  The new program performance standards are an important next step in the program’s history, establishing a set of 21st century performance standards that will result in higher quality Head Start programs and better outcomes for children and families.


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