Friday, October 18, 2013
Karen E. Lynch
Specialist in Social Policy
Head Start is a federal program that has provided comprehensive early childhood development services to low-income children since 1965. The program seeks to promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social, and other services. Head Start is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Federal Head Start funds are provided directly to local grantees rather than through states. Programs are locally designed and are administered by a network of roughly 1,600 public and private nonprofit and for-profit agencies. Most children served in Head Start programs are three- and four-year olds, but in 1994 Head Start was expanded to include an Early Head Start program, which serves children from birth to three years of age. Except as noted, the term Head Start in this report typically refers to both of these programs.
In May 2013, HHS announced that the FY2013 funding level for Head Start is $7.573 billion. This amount is $395 million (-5%) less than Head Start’s FY2012 funding level of $7.969 billion. The FY2013 funding level includes amounts provided in the final FY2013 appropriations law (P.L. 113-6), an across-the-board rescission of 0.2% required by Section 3004 of that law (as interpreted by the Office of Management and Budget), and reductions required by the sequester ordered on March 1, 2013. Sequestration is an automatic across-the-board spending reduction process under which budgetary resources are permanently canceled to enforce budget policy goals. In FY2013, the sequester was ordered by the President as a result of provisions in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), as amended. According to HHS, roughly 57,000 children have been cut from Head Start programs in FY2013 as a result of sequestration. In FY2013, Head Start also received supplemental funding (from P.L. 113-2) for disaster relief costs associated with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. When accounting for sequestration, the disaster supplemental provided roughly $95 million for Head Start programs. These funds were appropriated in addition to funds provided in the final FY2013 appropriations law.
The FY2014 President’s Budget, released in April 2013, requested $9.621 billion for Head Start. This amount would be roughly $2 billion (+27%) more than the program’s post-sequester FY2013 funding level. The President’s request included $1.4 billion for a newly proposed Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Program. In July 2013, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an FY2014 appropriations bill (S. 1284, S.Rept. 113-71) that would provide Head Start with the full amount requested by the President. The House Appropriations Committee has not yet taken action on this appropriations bill.
The Head Start Act was most recently reauthorized with the signing of the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-134) on December 12, 2007. This law authorized the program through the end of FY2012, meaning that Head Start is currently due for reauthorization. The 2007 reauthorization law included provisions to increase the program’s authorized funding levels; revise the allocation formula; limit grantee designation periods to five years (at which point the grant may be re-competed); expand eligibility to allow grantees to fill up to 35% of their slots with children from families with income between 100% and 130% of the poverty line (in certain circumstances); increase qualifications and training requirements for Head Start staff; delineate roles and responsibilities of a grantee’s governing body and policy council; and terminate the National Reporting System. The law also contained provisions aimed at promoting coordination among Head Start grantees and other state and local early childhood programs.
Date of Report: September 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 60
Order Number: RL30952
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