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Early Head Start Expansion: A Suggestion for OHS

As I mentioned in this previous post, the Omnibus appropriations bill includes $500 million for expansion of Head Start services for infants and toddlers. Under the language of the bill, these funds can be used for expansion of Early Head Start programs, conversion of existing Head Start to Early Head Start slots, or new discretionary grants for Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships proposed by the administration in its FY2014 budget proposal. While funds will have to be used for these purposes, my understanding is that the administration has significant discretion in how to prioritize and develop a process for allocating/awarding them. 

So, here's an idea: Rather than setting up allocations to specific service areas or types of activities, why doesn't the Office of Head Start establish a single national competition focused on identifying and awarding grants to the very highest quality providers and proposals for improving and expanding high-quality infant and toddler services nationally? Applicants could decide whether they want to apply to expand access to Early Head Start, convert Head Start slots to Early Head Start slots, or work with child care providers to improve quality/care for infants and toddlers outside of Head Start. Applicants could be judged based on their track record of effectively serving young children, the quality of their plans, and the anticipated bang for the buck. To ensure that funds go to the highest-need communities, Head Start could create a competitive preference for communities with high-poverty rates or percentages of unserved children.  

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