Bush announces accountability proposal for Head Start

By Keith Koffler and April Fulton

April 2, 2002

President Bush, appearing Tuesday in Media, Pa., announced an initiative to aid early childhood development. Under the initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services will develop a new accountability system for the Head Start program to ensure that Head Start centers assess standards of learning in early literacy, language and numerical skills, according to a White House briefing paper describing the plan.

HHS will also implement a national training program with the goal of training the nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers in early literacy teaching techniques.

Bush is also asking states to develop criteria for early childhood education, allowing states more flexibility with respect to their federal child care funds in order to meet the criteria. In addition, the Education Department will establish a variety of partnerships to foster a public awareness campaign designed to educate parents, teachers and childcare providers about the best practices in early childhood education.

Briefing reporters, Bush domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings indicated several aspects of the proposal would require legislation, including proposals for state action with respect to accountability standards and teacher training. The public awareness campaign will also require some amount of spending authorization, Spellings said.

Bush will return to the subject during an event Wednesday in the East Room.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is crafting bipartisan early childhood legislation with Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and others, applauded Bush for putting a plan on the table.

"I commend the president for raising this issue, and I look forward to working with the administration in the days ahead," he said in a statement.

Kennedy and Bush worked closely together on an education reform package that Bush signed into law early this year.

By Keith Koffler and April Fulton

April 2, 2002