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Head Start Recompetition Results Delayed Until Spring

A final decision on the fate of more than 130 Head Start grants that are up for grabs won't come before spring, according to a spokesman for the federal agency overseeing the recompetition process.

The 132 agencies that must vie to keep their federal Head Start dollars were expecting an announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in December. Those agencies—most of them nonprofit and community-based organizations that have been long-time providers of Head Start services—had to "recompete" to continue receiving their funds, in a reform effort spearheaded to improve the quality of the nearly $8 billion preschool program for poor children.

But now, according to Kenneth J. Wolfe, a spokesman for health and human services, which oversees Head Start, an announcement won't come until spring.

So why the delay? Is it the fiscal cliff? Is the review process—which HHS has been tightlipped about—taking longer than federal officials had planned for?

Wolfe offered no explanation for why the decision has been delayed, and did not provide a more specific time frame for the announcement. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the delay in a story that appeared yesterday.

Rick Mockler, the executive director of the California Head Start Association, said he'd always thought the agency's December timeline was too ambitious, given the enormity of evaluating complicated grant proposals.

But because providers had been led to believe that the decision would be coming before the end of the year, the delay could create some challenges, especially for new grant winners who will have to ramp up programs and recruit and enroll students in time for the 2012-13 school year, he said. Many providers were already worried about trying to make transitions to new programs even with an announcement in December.

Stay tuned.

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