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Head Start funding, governance could change

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – Changes may be coming in early childhood education programs.

President Bush has proposed that the "Head Start" program move from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Education. He's also suggesting that the monies for Head Start be put into a state "block grant" instead of going to individual programs. And the Administration suggests standardized tests for the children in the program.

Laurel Nybo is Bismarck's Head Start director. She says she's concerned about the idea of standardized tests -- because the results could be skewed, based on how the child is feeling or reacting on the day the tests are given. And she told Senator Byron Dorgan that Head Start already has accountability measures in place.

"We do annual self-assessments. We are tracking a number of things. And we don't think further testing would be helpful for the children or families at this point."

Michelle Haugen directs the Bismarck Early Childhood Education Program. She says she's concerned that moving Head Start away from Health and Human Services will hurt the program's emphasis on the whole family -- not just schooling.

"Were that to go into the Department of Education, we'd be concerned that maybe there would be a decreased emphasis on services to entire families."

Dorgan says he's concerned that the proposal to block-grant funding for Head Start will weaken the program. He says the Senate will take a serious look at the consequences the proposed changes will have on local Head Start programs.