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OCTOBER 30, 2003
1:21 PM
CONTACT: Children's Defense Fund 
Contact: John Norton (202) 662-3609
Children's Defense Fund Responds to Senate Action Today on Head Start Legislation
WASHINGTON - October 30 - Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, said today she is pleased the Senate Health and Education Committee left out a Bush Administration proposal that would hand Head Start over to the states, and is encouraged that the bill includes provisions that serve more infants and toddlers, and broadens Head Start eligibility to include more children of the working poor.

"Head Start works," she said. "Handing it over to budget-strapped states would dismantle the very program that has been so successful in helping poor children get ready for school. I cannot urge Congress strongly enough to keep out any language that would block grant one of the country's most successful antipoverty programs."

Edelman said Congress needs to make sure that any block granting provision stays out of the final Senate bill and out of the final Conference Committee agreements with the House. Without that commitment, she said, states will become the middleman in the federal to local funding structure, dismantling Head Start, and diminishing its high quality federal standards. However, she emphasized that there are still several provisions that could seriously weaken Head Start if they are not resolved.

"The Senate should continue to reject proposals that establish a set of outcomes for children that are not informed by research or science," she explained. "They should continue to oppose any inappropriate testing of young children and make sure that such test results are not used to determine program funding."

Edelman said the Children's Defense Fund is emphatically against any inappropriate testing of 4-year-olds as a way of evaluating the program. "Experts in child development, child outcomes and curricula should determine what happens in Head Start classrooms, not politicians."

"Early childhood assessment is most effective when used to improve curriculum and classroom practices, not as a tool to punish children or programs. The Senate Committee today chose not to address a provision to halt the new, inappropriate test on literacy, language and math for all 4-year-olds in Head Start. We urge Senators to delay this particular test until the public can provide input and the National Academy of Sciences can weigh in with their recommendations. Head Start is simply too important in the lives of young children for the Senate to move this process forward without making sure these issues are resolved."


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