Lawmakers Make Changes to Head Start Program

Texas lawmakers have enacted measures to improve the state's Head Start program for pre-schoolers.

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Senate Bill 23 was just signed by Governor Rick Perry and is considered to be the next step in improving the success rate of Head Start. The bill enacts an incentive system for head start programs around the state. Which means a program that meets certain standards can receive the state's seal of approval and be elgible for more funding and attract more business. Kaitlin Guthrow is the director of the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition. She says incentives will encourage local programs to push for excellence.

The senate bill also includes language promoting collaboration between the various state and local programs. The idea is to integrate services so more children can be served more efficiently. State Center for Early Childhood Development Director Dr. Susan Landry says one of the only ways to improve is to get head start leaders working together.

The State Legislature is giving head start leaders two years, until the next legislative session, to prove the efficacy of integrating services. And while changes are underway in the state system, national changes are being made to Head Start as well. Congress is debating how much money to add to the Head Start budget. In 1998, Head Start received almost $1 billion in federal funds, this year it'll likely be somewhere between $30-50 million. National Head Start Association President Sarah Greene says that's not enough money to maintain current services.

National, state and local Head Start providers are in Houston this week for a summit to address the issues surrounding the program.

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