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House Ed. Comm. Chair Demands Details in Head Start Recompetition

U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, wants the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to disclose some basic facts and figures about the Head Start recompetition process that is under way. This recompetition, also known by its wonkier name of "designation renewal," marks the first time in the federal program's history that long-time grant recipients have to vie to keep their funding for the early-childhood programs they provide to poor kids.

In a letter sent today to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Kline and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., seek to get much of the same information that I asked the agency for two weeks ago, including the number and names of providers who have submitted applications for a Head Start grant, a description of the professional qualifications of the review panel that will judge the applications, and some general information about how the applications will be scored.

Kline and Alexander say the agency's refusal so far to release information about recompetition falls short of the transparency and fairness requirements that were built into the designation renewal process that was added to the Head Start Act in 2007. The GOP leaders write that the lack of transparency "serves to justify doubts surrounding the department's ability to improve the quality of the Head Start program."

They are asking for answers by no later than Sept. 28.

As of the middle of last month, the first batch of agencies—130 of them—that were slated to recompete for their Head Start dollars had to submit lengthy applications to make a case for holding onto their funding. Because of HHS' refusal to reveal any details, we have no idea how many new players have thrown their hats into the ring to seek these grants. No awards are expected to be announced until the end of the year.

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