Head Start Gets Started
The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has approved an expansion of the Head Start program while igniting a controversy over whether or not service providers may be hired/fired on religious grounds:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House approved more money for the popular Head Start program Wednesday after rejecting a GOP-led attempt to allow religious groups participating in the program to hire and fire staffers based on religious grounds.Get more over there.
The bill, passed 365-48, approves $7.4 billion in spending in fiscal 2008 for the 42-year-old program that helps low-income children prepare for school, up from $6.9 billion in the current year.
It increases enrollment, now about 900,000 children aged 3 to 5, boosts teacher and staff salaries and expands services for homeless, migrant and non-English-speaking children.
"Head Start has served our most vulnerable children and families well for 42 years, and more recently, Early Head Start has done the same for infants and toddlers," said Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Michigan, a chief sponsor. "Head Start works, and this bill will make it work even better."
Before the final vote, Democrats voted down the Republican proposal to change a 1972 Head Start law in order to allow religious groups to take religion into account in hiring. Democrats said that amounted to sanctioning religious discrimination among groups receiving federal money.
Instead, Democrats pushed through an amendment, offered by Rep. Heath Shuler, D-North Carolina, and several other moderate Democratic freshmen, that confirms the rights of religious groups to participate in Head Start programs on the same basis of other organizations.
If the Senate, now considering a similar bill, and the House come to agreement, it would be the first congressional action on the education, nutrition and health program since the last reauthorization bill expired in 2003. Since then, Congress has voted on money for the program but has been unable to make substantive changes in it.
The White House said it cannot support the bill because of the religion issue and several other provisions, including one to terminate a system of measuring the progress of Head Start children.
For the record, we like Head Start.
Having said that, we also think that there should be some way to objectively measure the effectiveness of the program.
But how can that be done without giving pre-kindergarten age kids some sort of standardized tests?