Democrat criticizes Bush plan to give states control of Head Start

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, blasted the Bush administration's plan to turn responsibility for the Head Start program over to the states, and said the proposal-if implemented-would be "sort of like handing your children over to Michael Jackson."

Speaking at a forum held Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, Miller said that the administration plan was a "nonstarter" that would dilute the quality of Head Start services. He said that most state governments have no track record of running successful programs for poor preschoolers.

Launched in 1965, Head Start provides healthcare, nutrition and educational services for low-income preschoolers between the ages of three and five. It is run by the Administration for Children and Families within the Health and Human Services Department, but is operated in nearly 70,000 Head Start centers and classrooms across the country.

Responding to Miller, Margaret Spellings, assistant to President Bush for domestic policy, defended the president's proposal. "Maybe we have a fundamental disagreement about the role of the states," she said. "State governors want to serve these children well."

Spellings added that Bush has no desire to dilute the quality of Head Start services. "There is no effort afoot to destroy, undermine or weaken Head Start," she said. She noted that Bush's plan would distribute federal funds to states interested in managing their own Head Start programs, but it would also set stringent accountability standards. States would be required to provide the same healthcare, nutrition and educational services that Head Start currently provides, and would also be required to evaluate the progress of children going through their programs.

The primary benefit of the Bush plan, she said, would be to allow states to better coordinate services that they currently provide to preschoolers with the Head Start program. Currently, she said, there is no requirement for Head Start programs to coordinate with these state-run programs.

Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Education Reform Subcommittee-the subcommittee where the reauthorization process will begin-said he doubted that Congress would adopt the administration plan as drafted, but added that he sees room for compromise. He noted that both Miller and Spellings agree that Head Start programs can do more to coordinate with state-run programs, even if the Bush plan is not adopted. "Head Start is doing a good job, a very good job, but it can do an excellent job," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.