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Transparency Watch: Head Start Contest Leaves Us Scratching Our Heads

Guest post by Nirvi Shah

So which of the Head Start providers on a watch list by the federal government didn't make the cut during the first attempt at accountability for the decades-old pre-K program?

It's hard to say. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services won't, either.

Last week, my colleague Christina Samuels wrote on the Early Years blog that 25 of 125 low-performing Head Start providers that went through a recompetition process to maintain federal funding lost money to serve the regions they have been serving for years, in many cases. Though HHS's Head Start office has this tally, it won't say which providers make up those 25.

The office at first suggested cross-referencing this list with this one. So I tried that. The lists are not categorized the same way. Some agencies have similar sounding names but they're not exact matches.

If you take a more successful stab at this, please, let me know in the comments.

Head Start reasons that it can't share the names of the 25 losers because they have a chance of reclaiming their status as a provider if negotiations don't work out with the provider who has been chosen in their place. The new grantees still have to agree to Head Start's funding and service requirements, and there's a chance those negotiations will lead to a stalemate. (The agency's press release, it's worth noting, is more firm, stating: "Twenty-five existing providers will be replaced by new programs that developed better plans for delivering Head Start services in their communities.")

"We wanted to be as open and transparent as possible," an agency spokesman told me in an email. "But because it is an ongoing negotiation, there is a limit to how transparent we can be until those negotiations close."

That may be a while yet. The agency says negotiations won't wrap up until July.

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