Senator Alexander Proposes 200 Head Start Centers For Excellence In Early Childhood

Posted on July 28, 2003

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander today introduced a bill to be considered as part of Head Start reauthorization. The legislation authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a nationwide network of 200 Centers of Excellence in Early Childhood built around exemplary Head Start programs. Governors would nominate the centers, and the Secretary of HHS would select 149 Centers of Excellence. The Secretary would name an additional 51 centers, with a goal of having at least one Center of Excellence in each state. The bill calls for an additional $100 million in Head Start funding. Alexander's proposal involves states to help strengthen and coordinate Head Start but continues to send federal funds directly to the grantees for the 19,000 Head Start centers that serve one million disadvantaged children. "I believe that states should be more involved with Head Start," Alexander said. "States have primary responsibility for setting standards for and funding public education. "But the need to involve states does not necessarily mean sending federal dollars first to states and then to Head Start centers. As important as the state is, education and caring for children is primarily local — a community and family responsibility. I believe that in education and child care, local solutions work best." Each center would receive a federal bonus grant of at least $100,000 in each of five years, in addition to its base funding. And each state would receive a grant to establish and fund a State Council in Early Childhood, which would work with the newly-created State Head Start Collaboration Office to showcase the work of exemplary Head Start centers within a state, capture and disseminate best practices, and identify barriers to and opportunities for coordinated service delivery. The Centers of Excellence bonus grants would be used for centers:
  • to work in their community to model the best of what Head Start can do for at-risk children and families, including getting those children ready for school and ready for academic success;
  • to coordinate all early childhood services in their communities;
  • to offer training and support to all professionals working with at-risk children;
  • to track families and ensure continuity of services from prenatal to age 8;
  • to become models of excellence by all performance measures;
  • to be willing to be held accountable for good outcomes for our most disadvantaged children.
Alexander also suggested that the President might convene an annual conference of the proposed Head Start Centers of Excellence and State Councils to highlight their successes. The House has passed Head Start legislation. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, of which Alexander is a member, held a hearing on the subject last week. Head Start is expected to be debated on the Senate floor in the fall.