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New Head Start Standards Will Cost Taxpayers an Additional $1 Billion

One of President Obama’s top advisers on education policy declined to endorse a key part of the Democratic presidential candidate’s early childhood education plan.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett offered their support for the revised Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) on a conference call with reporters. Hillary Clinton plans to double the federal government’s investment in the Early Head Start program.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs for children from low-income families “support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5.” The programs also offer the “children and their families with health, nutrition, social, and other services.”

The revised program standards include maintaining “Head Start’s family partnership agreements and home visits for families” as well as strengthening “parent engagement by providing new opportunities for parents to participate in an evidence-based parenting curriculum.” In addition, the Office of Head Start plans to “retain core health services and streamline requirements to make them easier to implement and “strengthen mental health services to support teachers.”

The official Head Start website explains that the cost of full implementation of the new standards by August 2021 is estimated at “about $1 billion in additional funding above the funding Congress has already provided to increase the number of children attending full school day and year Head Start programs.”

According to Clinton’s campaign website, “Early Head Start provides comprehensive services to our youngest learners and their families—including health, nutrition, and pre-literacy support with a strong focus on children’s social and emotional development.”

Clinton supports doubling federal spending on the “Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program,” which brings “Early Head Start’s evidence-based curriculum into the child care setting to provide comprehensive, full-day, high-quality services to low-income families.”

Clinton has also pledged to “double the number of children served by Early Head Start and the Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program.”

Following Burwell and Jarrett’s opening remarks on the call, PJM asked Jarrett if President Obama supports Clinton’s plan.

“I can answer the question you had directed to Ms. Jarrett,” said Deputy Assistant to the President for Education Roberto Rodriguez. “We are not going to be able to speak to the particulars of candidate’s proposals relative to Head Start. I will say the president has been a strong supporter of Head Start both growing and expanding and improving the problem. We’ve seen a threefold increase in the number of infants and toddlers served by high quality early effective Head Start services.”

“As Valerie mentioned, we made an unprecedented investment in the Recovery Act — I think the largest onetime increase we’ve seen in the Head Start program — $2.1 billion and 62,000 additional children, so suffice to say the president is a strong supporter of growing and expanding this program,” he added.

Deputy Assistant HHS Secretary for Early Childhood Development Linda Smith told PJM there is no charge for qualified parents to enroll their children in the Head Start program.

“For our 3 and 4 Head Start children the average that we spend per child is right around $8,500 per year and I think that’s pretty much in keeping with what the school districts and other programs would pay,” she said, adding that “there is no charge for Head Start.”