Earlier this week, President Bush signed into law a reauthorization of Head Start, the education program that gives low-income children a boost before beginning Kindergarten.
The bill, sponsored by Michigan Democrat Dale Kildee and 26 other members of congress, passed both the House and Senate by wide margins, and expands the program to cover more kids, provide higher salaries to teachers, and does away with a standardized testing system that Head Start officials said was cumbersome and ineffective.
"We are pleased to see that the president's thinking has evolved so far from the start of this process, when he outlined a number of steps that would have dismantled Head Start," said Ron Herndon, president of the National Head Start Association and director of Albina Head Start. "We have certainly come a long way from those days."
"We also commend members of Congress for showing such significant bipartisan support for Head Start reauthorization. We see the passage of this bill as the necessary starting point for a greater focus on the domestic agenda for Congress and the next president. We hope that Congress and the president continue their support for Head Start by increasing funding so programs have the essentials to continue to meet federal standards and add back some of the services that have been lost as flat-funding and cuts have stripped programs over the past several years."
Studies have found that Head Start expands vocabularies, develops writing skills, while improving social skills and behavior. The reauthorization will reach out to families who were previously not eligible because of income that did not qualify them. A family of four with an income of just $26,800 or 130 percent of the poverty level will now be eligible for the program.