Two Seattle Head Start programs have lost their federal funding after they failed to meet quality standards. It's the first round of contract terminations in the new push by the Obama administration to improve the early learning programs for low-income kids.
The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and First A.M.E. Child Development Center were among five Head Start providers in Washington state, and 125 providers nationwide, that received notice in December 2011 that they hadn't met quality benchmarks and now needed to compete against other providers for federal funding. In 2012, First A.M.E. received $2.5 million in Head Start funding and served 264 students, and United Indians received $1.5 million and served 148 students.
Joel Ryan, executive director of the association of Head Start programs in Washington state, says he doesn’t know the details of how the two Seattle programs fell short. "It could range anywhere from a financial issue to something that really did affect the health and safety of children in the program," Ryan said.
According to federal overseers, 45 providers nationwide, including United Indians and First A.M.E., were unable to show sufficient improvement and now will lose their contracts. Puget Sound Educational Service District, Children's Home Society of Washington, and Neighborhood House, which already run Head Start programs, will take over the United Indians and First A.M.E. programs.
Ryan says the state’s approximately four-dozen Head Start programs received rigorous evaluations, including classroom observations to gauge teacher quality. "The Obama administration’s efforts to weed out poorly-performing programs is necessary, and it’s something that our association supports," Ryan said, adding that he hopes the government doesn't focus excessively on quality benchmarks in lieu of improving other initiatives, such as family outreach.
No one at the United Indians or First A.M.E. Head Start programs was immediately available for comment.
The federal government recently announced a second round of Head Start programs that have failed to meet benchmarks and now must compete for their contracts. Three Washington providers made the list: Olympic Community Action Programs in Port Townsend, Yakima-based Enterprise for Progress in the Community, and Reliable Enterprises, based in Centralia.