Texas County Votes to Keep Federal Head Start Programs

AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner
AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner

As a battle brews between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Legislature over pre-kindergarten funding, the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) board voted Tuesday to keep the federal government’s version of early education, Head Start and continuing 15 of their preschool programs.

KHOU reported that Harris County’s education department operates 21 federally-funded Head Start and Early Head Start program locations for 1,230 youngsters from low-income families. The department expects to receive more than $21 million from the feds to fund their programs this year.

Last Friday, concerned families, community members, and staffers started an online petition to support HCDE in response to rumors that Head Start programs would shut down. In actuality, board member Mike Wolfe proposed they dump these Head Start centers, according to the Houston Chronicle. He authored an agenda item for Tuesday’s meeting out of concern that taxpayers were paying too much for these bloated, social programs.

Wolfe requested “consideration of informing the federal government that HCDE will cease to operate any Head Start facilities at the earliest possible date in 2017,” noting in the agenda item “there are other entities that can and do provide this service within Harris County.”

Others on the seven-member board disagreed and voted to keep the big government program.

A 2012 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study mandated by Congress found Head Start to be a failure, indicating that students who participated in the federal $8 billion program actually fared worse, in some ways, than students who did not. The study also revealed that positive effects of the program were not sustained into elementary school. Although children did better in reading and language arts, they did worse in math and had more issues with social interaction by third grade than children not in the program.

HCDE’s decision to stick with Head Start comes as the Texas House of Representatives threatens to defund Governor Greg Abbott’s early childhood education grant program, HB 4, signed into law in 2015. It pumped up to $130 million into state funded half-day pre-K. These programs touted “high-quality” early education that met state standards and promised accountability.

In the current legislative session, Abbott wants to beef up HB 4 funding for 2018-19 with supports but the House announced it wanted to do just the opposite, cut all funding and redistribute taxpayer dollars to public school districts for their pre-K programs that are based on the amount of students enrolled and without any strings attached, or having to meet such stringent standards, according to the Texas Tribune.

In his 2017 State of the State, Abbott noted that in each legislative session, lawmakers vote to spend roughly $1.5 billion on unaccountable pre-K. Abbott emphasized the purpose of HB 4 was to set high standards, evaluate them, eliminate what does not work, and not waste taxpayer dollars. He added: “Let’s do this right. Or don’t do it at all.”

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.


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