For the first time, Head Start programs in Ohio and nationwide that have fallen short of federal standards must compete for funding. For the past 48 years, the programs had received the funds automatically, Education Week reports.
Ten Ohio Head Start programs must reapply for funding, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll receive it. Only one other state (Virginia) had more Head Start programs that will need to reapply for funding. (Here’s the list of programs that must reapply.)
Head Start programs use federal dollars to provide pre-school and other programs to more than one million low-income children each year. In this round of funding, programs are competing for $7.6 billion in federal grants.
The change from automatic funding to competition has sparked intense debate in Toledo.
For years, the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo has automatically received Head Start money, nearly $13 million annually, the Toledo Blade reports. That money makes up the largest part of EOPA’s budget.
Now EOPA must reapply, and the door is open for others to step in: The Toledo school district also intends to apply for some of the funding. The Blade says the move has set off a political firestorm.
EOPA is run mostly by African Americans, and the group’s supporters see the competition as “an attempt to dismantle one of the few remaining black institutions left in Toledo.” School district officials say their plans to apply for the funding are an attempt to provide better early education to Toledo children and have cited an internal study showing little difference between students who participate in Head Start and those who don’t.
Also at issue are hundreds of jobs and issues of union representation. And the education of thousands of young children.