Commentary: Redefining Head Start is not necessarily bad
I don't know what it is, it must be the weather, but whatever appears to be shaking the system these days is decidedly bad, and President George Bush is the culprit behind it. Never mind the entrenchment of a federal government that was built, pr...
I don't know what it is, it must be the weather, but whatever appears to be shaking the system these days is decidedly bad, and President George Bush is the culprit behind it. Never mind the entrenchment of a federal government that was built, principally since 1965, on the premise that government alone is the way to heaven, and anyone with an idea or two that too much government does not provide total salvation for the masses is an idiot and should be exiled to Siberia or the Alaskan tundra. Goodness sakes alive, gee whiz and all that jazz.
Recently, an editorial in the Minneapolis Tribune, an influential publication dedicated to the Peoples' Republic of Minnesota, suggested that President Bush's efforts to "redefine" current Head Start initiatives and restructure its funding efforts are misguided. Some are even suggesting foolscap as a better definition. Either way, the Bush administration is stirring the pot and, in reality, it's about time. Instead of scheming bureaucrats and their staffs conjuring up new ideas to build the system at the expense of average citizens, Bush investigators are looking at programs in place, seeking ways to improve what is already operational without increasing costs so notorious in government circles.
When you look at the Head Start program, it is a national effort to provide comprehensive development services for America's low-income, preschool children ages 3 to 5 and social services for their families. Head Start programs are in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories throughout the world. Head Start began in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson decreed that he had become king and the masses were now resting in his hands. Financial reports indicate that in but six years, from 1992 to 1998, a $2.2 billion budget had escalated to $4.66 billion. Who knows where it is right now, but you can be assured it is between $6 billion and $8 billion. What few know is that 20 percent of the total costs of Head Start are borne by communities served.
The Minneapolis paper reported that the Bush administration is proposing more emphasis on vocabulary and math, along with a mandatory testing of the program's 4-year-olds. The Bush people say Head Start doesn't accomplish enough for disadvantaged children, and they are getting an argument from the establishment. Well now, isn't that interesting?
Consider the fact that students in high school today are substandard on language skills, grammar and mathematics. Why not examine growing Head Start budget initiatives, at least taking a look just to make sure all the pieces are connecting with the intent of the initial legislation. And, in reality, insuring that pre-schoolers are acquainted with health care, nutritional needs and emotional readiness certainly does not guarantee that the family setting will yield to this new found information given to 4-year-olds.
There is no question that the intent of the Head Start program is and remains indeed genuine and worthwhile. Many disadvantaged children need a jump-start in their preschool exposure, and Head Start has the capacity to do just that. We see, however, the need for a continual review of existing programs that includes a budget review as well. Only then will the recipients of these efforts get the best bang from the taxpayer bucks.