The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has notified all 132 Head Start grantees that they will be required to compete for continued funding if they wish to carry on providing Head Start services.
This comes after President Obama announced his new regulations for Head Start. Grantees who now do not meet quality thresholds established by the Office of Head Start will have to compete with other potential providers for the funding.
Obama's new regulations bring, for the first time, an element of competition into the Head Start grant process.
"This administration is fully committed to ensuring that our Head Start children and families receive the highest quality services from the most capable organizations," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"We are holding programs to high standards for classroom quality and program integrity and today's announcement sends a strong message that the status quo is no longer acceptable."
Grantees will now be required to compete over seven conditions that judge a program's quality for continued funding. It is thought that this process will help better direct taxpayer dollars to programs that provide the best available early education services to children in every community.
Funding announcements will be released early next year.
"Providing robust, open competition for Head Start funding will not only provide opportunities for new organizations to offer services, but it also increases the number of low-income children in high-quality care," said Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, director for the Office of Head Start.
All 1,600 Head Start grantees will be assessed over the next three years. It is thought that one-third of all grantees will be required to re-compete for continued funding.
Head Start has the authority to suspend or terminate a grantee if it fails to correct problems identified through Head Start monitoring including areas related to the health and safety of children.
These new regulations add another resource that the Department of Health and Human Studies can refer to, to ensure that the programs that are being offered to children and families are of the highest quality.
Over the last three years, the Office of Head Start has implemented bold reforms to strengthen accountability, hold programs to high standards and improve classroom quality for the million children receiving Head Start services each year, says a press release.
"High- quality early childhood education is critical for ensuring that every child enters school ready for success. Today's announcement keeps our commitment to America's most vulnerable children and continues to raise the bar for Head Start and the entire early education community.
"Head Start provides grants to local organizations to provide comprehensive child development services to low-income children and families."
There are almost 1,600 Head Start and Early Head Start grantees across the country that are providing early learning services to vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers.