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Detroit Misses Head Start Application Deadline, Will Continue Pre-K Expansion

The Detroit school system missed a deadline back in May to apply for $4 million in Head Start funds for 2014-15, but plans to continue with a plan to add more than 500 early-childhood seats, the Detroit Free Press reports

The Detroit district recently switched from being a direct recipient of Head Start funds to a "delegate agency," the term Head Start uses for subcontractors.  (A note: the City of Detroit, one of several entities providing Head Start services in the region, was among the first wave of grantees asked to recompete for federal funds, a new process known as "designation renewal." Only the results of the first competition are publicly known, though two additional cohorts of Head Start programs around the country have been asked to go through the competition process.) 

A technical glitch in May 2013 apparently prevented the city from applying for Head Start funds for 2014-15, according to the article:

In an e-mail sent to the Free Press late Monday, district spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski ... said the district has been a Head Start grantee for decades, but decided last year to apply to be a direct delegate of Head Start funds. The district did a trial run, she said, but when the application was due, it ran into technical problems.

"DPS completed its application, and on the day of the submission deadline the team encountered technical difficulties with uploading the information and sought assistance from a technical advisor at Grants.Gov (the portal through which the grant was to be uploaded)," she wrote. "A trouble ticket was issued further documenting the challenge. However, due to this technical difficulty the application was not able to be submitted on time (which we were notified of the morning after the submission deadline had passed)."

Though the problem was known a year ago, it is only now coming to light because the district noted the funding loss in a draft deficit elimination plan submitted to the Michigan Department of Education. 

However, other state and federal resources will allow the district to add 34 new pre-K classrooms, the district said in a press release. Slots for the students who would have normally been funded through Head Start and their teachers' salaries will now be paid for through Title I and new state funds allocated under the Great Start Readiness program. 

That isn't stopping educators and other community members from criticizing the district, however. "People are outraged and rightfully so," Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson told the Free Press. "It's just completely inexcusable. When you have a district that is competing for every single dollar ... How can you be part of the leadership and miss something as simple as a deadline?"

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