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WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy made the following remarks on the floor of the United States Senate as it considered the Head Start Reauthorization Conference Report and the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure this afternoon. The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act increases eligibility and focuses on our neediest children, as well as improving local programs and establishing new goals for the teaching workforce. It also provides for health care screening and the authorization of $7.3 billion in funding for the program. (As Prepared for Delivery) I welcome the Senate’s action today on the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act. For 42 years, Head Start has brought disadvantaged children the assistance they need to arrive at school ready to learn and the building blocks they need to succeed later in life. This Conference Report builds on all of the lessons learned from Head Start’s past and sets an even greater course for the future. The legislation before us is a culmination of hard work by many Members over several years. I commend my colleague Senator Enzi and all of the Members of the HELP Committee for their work in the past two Congresses and this Congress to strengthen and improve the program. Planning for Head Start began in the early 1960s, before we knew all that we know today about how to best intervene and support the lives of young children living in poverty. At that time, as Attorney General, my brother Robert Kennedy decided to tackle the problem of juvenile delinquency. Research pointed to poverty as the root of the nation’s social and economic challenges. It was agreed that a strategy based on early education could be a significant part of the answer. In August 1964, President Johnson and Congress launched the War on Poverty by passing the Economic Opportunity Act. The nation’s poor numbered 10 million, with nearly half under the age of 12. In the fall of that year, my brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, convened a panel of experts in child development, education, public health, and social work to lay a foundation for the Head Start program. He envisioned a bold national commitment to prepare our neediest children for kindergarten and first grade. He conferred with experts like Dr. Edward Zigler, and they agreed that a comprehensive approach was needed. Preschool was the centerpiece of the plan, but a major emphasis was placed on health care and parent involvement, too. The following year, Head Start came into being as an 8-week summer program. With the help of thousands of volunteers, it served 560,000 children through preschool classes, medical and dental care, and health services. Over the years, it would reach over 24 million. Today, the face of poverty and of America’s neediest families has changed. The American workplace has changed, and our education system is being challenged to keep up with the global economy. Head Start has always adapted, finding new ways to respond to the demands on low-income, working families. But its mission has remained the same – to help our most vulnerable children succeed in school and in life. When parents are asked what they most want to accomplish in life, their answer undoubtedly includes a desire to open the doors of opportunity for their children. They want a fair chance for their children to grow up healthy and safe, to graduate from high school and go on to college, and to achieve the American dream. That dream should be available to every child in America. But far too often, families are still struggling to put food on the table, buy clothes for their children, pay the rent, or see a doctor. Poverty is again on the rise. Today, one out of every five children in America grows up poor. Poverty has many dimensions. It’s a labor issue, because pay is so low and workers are exploited. It’s a civil rights issue, because so many African American and Latino families are often the ones left behind. It’s a health care issue, because the health care that families in poverty receive is so sub-standard. Most of all, it’s a children’s issue, because the children of the poor have done nothing wrong. But they still pay the price. It’s our responsibility as a nation to help those in need. And the federal bedrock of that commitment is Head Start. It has always been an important symbol of our responsibility to others. At its core are the values that shaped our democracy: equity, opportunity, community empowerment, and economic progress. Head Start is based on the premise that education is the key to the future and to breaking down the destructive forces of poverty. It provides the starting point for a child’s day, with a healthy meal each morning and a promise to parents that while they are at work and balancing two jobs, their children will see a doctor and dentist, and receive immunizations. It provides children with the building blocks they need to enter school ready to learn. It teaches the social and emotional skills needed by children to pay attention in the classroom and get along well with others. It expands their vocabulary, gets them excited about reading, and teaches them to count. It welcomes parents into its programs, gives them opportunities to make decisions about their child’s learning and development, and sometimes helps families find a roof for over their head. Over the years, with each new educational and developmental advance in research, we’ve learned more about how Head Start can be improved. And with that learning, modifications have been made to enable the program to be even more effective: In 1972, the Child Development Associate program was established, to provide a standard of quality for Head Start teachers and aides. In 1974, the reauthorization of Head Start established the comprehensive Program Performance Standards to guide Head Start Centers in providing essential educational, health, and social services, and achieving parental involvement. The reauthorization also paved the way for a network of training and technical assistance activities to help Head Start agencies enhance the quality of their programs. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Indian and Migrant Head Start programs were formed, and Family Service Centers were established to combat illiteracy, substance abuse, and unemployment in Head Start communities. At that time, Head Start also began its important focus on improving transitions for preschool children to public schools. In 1994, we created Early Head Start to serve low-income infants and toddlers in the first three years of their development. That legislation also led to the development of improved performance measures to assess outcomes in Head Start, and new guidelines for monitoring Head Start programs. The current reauthorization applies the lessons learned from the past with the new knowledge of child development and early education to enable Head Start to be even more successful in the years ahead. There’s no question that Head Start is effective. Our own federally-mandated study of Head Start found that it expands children’s vocabularies, and makes the greatest difference for those with the greatest needs. Head Start improves children’s writing skills, and helps children grow in their social skills and behavior. By the time Head Start children complete their kindergarten year, their skills and developmental abilities are near the national average, with scores of 99 in early literacy, 98 in early writing, 95 in early math, and 95 in vocabulary. This reauthorization maintains high standards and comprehensive services in Head Start. It upgrades educational components of the program, and ensures that it delivers the skills and support that children need to succeed in kindergarten and the early grades. It promotes greater partnerships between Head Start programs and local schools, and ensures that services continue to be framed by the highly effective Head Start Child Outcomes Framework. It also provides a needed bridge for parents to their local schools, to promote greater coordination and ease the transition of children from preschool to kindergarten. We also terminate the flawed National Reporting System, and ensure that new educational standards and measures used in Head Start will be informed by the National Academy of Sciences. Two years ago, the Government Accountability Office confirmed many of our long-standing concerns with this assessment, concluding that the test is not valid to make determinations about programs and students. The study also confirmed that the test was inconsistent with nationally-recognized testing standards, and unclear in its purpose. This reauthorization ensures that any assessments used in Head Start will be valid and reliable, fair to children from all backgrounds, and measure the whole child. Head Start children and their families deserve nothing less. Head Start teachers and staff are the heart and future of the program. They help children learn to identify letters and arrange the pieces of puzzles. They teach them to brush their teeth, wash their hands, make friends, and follow rules. This reauthorization sets important and unprecedented goals for enhancing the skills and qualifications of Head Start teachers and staff. In this reauthorization, we’re striving to help all teachers earn their Associates Degree over the next 6 years, help half of all teachers in Head Start earn their Bachelors Degree, and help all assistant teachers work toward completing a CDA or another early education credential. These are ambitious goals. But we know that learning and development of young children require good teachers, and that there’s a strong link between educational qualifications and the quality of programs. The quality of a program doesn’t just depend on the educational background of its teachers, which is why we are also calling for professional development and a career advancement plan for every Head Start employee – including family service workers, assistant teachers, and curriculum coordinators. We’ve established new partnerships to increase staff in Head Start who are prepared to serve the diverse children enrolled in the programs. Most of all, we’ve worked to ensure that Head Start agencies have a dedicated stream of funds to provide needed training for teachers. The reauthorization dedicates $2 million this year to local training and improvement efforts, much of which will be used to improve and strengthen the Head Start workforce. We commit to confronting the persistent challenge of compensating Head Start teachers as the professionals that they are. Head Start teachers earn half the salary of kindergarten teachers, and turnover is about 11 percent per year. This conference report commits 40 percent of new funds in Head Start to program quality and teacher salaries, to do more to attract and retain caring and committed leaders. It ensures that each Head Start Center will receive an annual cost-of-living increase to keep up with the rising costs of operation and overhead. We grant additional flexibility in this reauthorization for Head Start to serve thousands of additional low-income children in need, by including families just above the federal poverty level. It’s essential for Head Start to prioritize its services to the neediest families in their communities. But this new flexibility enables those living near poverty and earning less than what they need to get by to receive assistance too. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s what Head Start is all about. The reauthorization also makes a long-overdue commitment to expanding Head Start programs in Indian country, and programs for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. By reserving up to $20 million annually to expand services in these programs, we can hopefully reach an additional 5,500 migrant children and an additional 5,100 Native American children living in poverty. New provisions are also included to enhance services for homeless children, children who are English language learners, and children with disabilities in order to ensure that these populations receive the care and attention they deserve. Accountability is a cornerstone of excellence and should start early. Head Start should be accountable for its commitment to provide safe and healthy learning environments, to support each child’s individual pattern of development and learning, to build community partnerships in services to children, and to involve parents in their child’s growth. This reauthorization makes significant progress in increasing accountability and investing in excellence in Head Start. It continues the comprehensive monitoring that has become a hallmark of Head Start, and ensures that reviews are fair and balanced in order to account for challenges and strengths in programs. It also establishes a new system for the designation of Head Start grants, to be phased in over the next several years. We know that the vast majority of Head Start programs provide outstanding services – fewer than 20 percent of programs are found to be deficient each year. But where serious deficiencies exist, we must see that substantial problems do not languish at the expense of children. If a local program is unable to meet Head Start’s high standards of quality, timely action should be taken. This new system will facilitate accountability and funding decisions, and do so in a manner that is transparent, fair, and responsive to the local needs of families and children. We’ve established greater accountability for enrollment in programs, and delineated a clear system of governance in Head Start. The reauthorization also takes important steps to expand Early Head Start. Since its inception, results have proven that Early Head Start is one of the most effective programs of the Department of Health and Human Services. In this legislation, we improve the training and assistance network serving Early Head Start, and guarantee a dedicated expert in each state to work with programs to meet the needs of infants and toddlers. We also expand the screening available to infants exposed to trauma, violence, or other circumstances detrimental to their development. We commit to expanding Early Head Start to serve an additional 8,000 low-income infants and toddlers over the next five years. As in elementary and secondary education, reform in early childhood education requires resources. Today, half of all children eligible for Head Start have no access to it. Early Head Start however, serves only 3 percent of eligible infants and toddlers – we leave behind a shameful 97 percent. When Sergeant Shriver discussed the War on Poverty, he said “You have to put immense resources into winning a war.” He was right, and he wasn’t talking about wars like Iraq. He was talking about the war on poverty. This Conference Report increases authorizations for Head Start to $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2008, $7.6 billion in fiscal year 2009, and $7.9 billion in fiscal year 2010. On a bipartisan basis, the conferees have signaled a commitment to invest more in our youngest children, and to assist Head Start in responding to the changing and evolving needs of the communities it serves. Research shows that the first five years of life make an immense difference for a child. Those who attend high-quality early education programs are more likely to do well when they reach elementary school, are less likely to be held back a grade, and are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. Our federal investment in early childhood education clearly pays off – for every dollar invested in high-quality early education, there is a 16 dollar return later in life. All children – regardless of their background – deserve to learn and develop. We need to strengthen early childhood for young children, in order to help them succeed later in school and in life. A comprehensive curriculum and a stable and well-qualified workforce are cornerstones of a good early education. I’m especially pleased that this reauthorization of Head Start includes a blueprint to strengthen the array of early childhood programs and services for young children. The bill establishes an Early Childhood Advisory Council to examine needs of early childhood programs, develop a plan to improve professional development, upgrade standards, enhance collaboration among programs, and improve data collection. More than 40 states have early learning standards in place or under development. States like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Illinois have developed the systems needed to improve program quality and expand access to programs in the early years. We need to build on that progress. States that are ready to take on the challenge of implementing needed improvements in their early education programs will qualify for incentive grants to get such improvements underway. One of our highest priorities in Congress is to expand educational opportunities for every American. In this age of globalization, every citizen deserves a chance to acquire the skills needed to compete in the modern economy. That challenge begins at birth, and accelerates in the early years of life – well before children even begin kindergarten. This reauthorization helps us reach this essential goal. It keeps Head Start on its successful path, and enables it to continue to thrive and improve. We still haven’t won the war on poverty in America. But thanks to Head Start, we’re getting closer. Day by day, and one child at a time. This conference report continues that indispensable progress, and I urge my colleagues to approve it. ### CONFERENCE REPORT TO ACCOMPANY H.R. 1429 Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act Section by Section Summary SECTION 2. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE. Adds the goal of promoting the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development in a learning environment that supports growth in language and literacy, mathematics, science, social and emotional functioning, creative arts, physical skills and by providing comprehensive health, educational, nutritional, social, and other related services. SECTION 3. DEFINITIONS. This section amends section 637 by adding community-based organizations to the definition of potential delegate agencies, removing the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands from the definition of ‘State.’ ‘Institution of higher education’ has the same meaning given the term in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965. This section defines ‘deficiencyas a systemic or substantial material failure in an area of performance; failure of the governing body to fully exercise its legal and fiduciary responsibilities; or an unresolved area of noncompliance. ‘Homeless childis defined as one who lacks a regular or adequate nighttime residence or whose residence is a temporary shelter. Interrater reliabilityis when two or more independent raters obtain the same result when using the same assessment tool. This section defines ‘limited English proficient’ as one who was not born in the United States or whose native language is a language other than English. ‘Principles of scientific researchis defined to mean principles of research that apply rigorous, systematic, objective methodology, and present findings and claims supported by those methods. This section defines ‘professional developmentas high quality activities that improve the knowledge and skills of Head Start teachers and staff; ‘scientifically valid researchto include applied research, basic research, and field-initiated research, and ‘unresolved area of noncomplianceas failure to correct a noncompliance item within 120 days, or within such additional time (if any) as authorized by the Secretary. SECTION 4. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR HEAD START GRANTS. Provides Head Start agencies grants for a five-year period. SECTION 5. AUTHORIZATION. This section authorizes $7,350,000,000 for fiscal year 2008, $7,650,000,000 for fiscal year 2009, $7,995,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, and such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2011 and 2012. SECTION 6. ALLOTMENT OF FUNDS. Under this section nothing shall be construed to deny the Secretary the authority to terminate, suspend, or reduce funding to a Head Start agency. If the sums appropriated under section 639 are not sufficient to provide the amounts required to be reserved under subparagraphs (B) through (E), the reservations must be reduced proportionately. Hold Harmless This section authorizes the Secretary to determine an amount for each fiscal year for each State that is not less than the amount received through base grants in the prior fiscal year. For each fiscal year, the Secretary is directed to reserve for each fiscal year such sums as are necessary to provide for each State, Indian Head Start programs and migrant or seasonal Head Start programs an amount not less than that agency’s base grant in the prior fiscal year. Sums must be reserved to provide an amount for Head Start agencies in Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands of the United States that is equal to the amount provided for base grants in the prior fiscal year. This section provides an amount for Head Start agencies in the Republic of Palau for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 that is equal to the amount provided for base grants in the prior fiscal year. This section also provides a set-aside amount for a collaboration grant for each State. Reservations Under this section the Secretary will set aside a portion no less than 2.5 percent and not more than 3 percent of the sums appropriated pursuant to section 639 for each fiscal year to fund training (professional development) and technical assistance activities. The Secretary is directed to set aside no less than 20 percent of that portion for Early Head Start programs and a portion equal to the rest of the reserved amount to fund these activities for other Head Start programs. This portion should be allocated as follows: not less than 50 percent of the reservation shall be made available to Head Start agencies to use directly, not less than 25 percent of the reservation shall be available to the Secretary to provide training, including professional development, and technical assistance, and the remainder of the portion shall be set aside under this subclause and be made available to the Secretary to assist Head Start agencies. In determining the portion set aside, the Secretary shall consider the number of Early Head Start programs newly funded for that fiscal year. The Secretary shall reserve not more than $20,000,000 to fund research, demonstration, and evaluation activities, of which not more than $7,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012 shall be available to carry out impact studies. Not more than $42,000,000 will be reserved for the Secretary for the monitoring of Head Start agencies. The Secretary is also directed to reserve .2 percent of funding for the territories. Cost of Living and Indian and Migrant Expansion If funds permit, the Secretary is required to provide a cost of living increase, from remaining funds, for each Head Start agency (including each Early Head Start agency) and provide $10,000,000 in expansion funding for Indian Head Start programs, and $10,000,000 in expansion funding for migrant and seasonal Head Start programs. If the remaining amount is not sufficient to meet these requirements, for each of fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, the Secretary shall provide 5 percent of that amount for expansion funding to Indian Head Start programs, and 5 percent of that amount for expansion funding to migrant and seasonal Head Start programs, and use 90 percent of that amount to provide the same percentage cost of living increase for each agency. When funds are insufficient to reserve funds for Indian and migrant and seasonal program expansion and at least a 50% cost of living increase, funds shall only be used for a cost of living increase. For fiscal year 2011 and each subsequent fiscal year, for each agency the Secretary will provide the cost of living increase and provide equal amounts for Indian and migrant and seasonal Head Start programs. Indian Head Start programs shall not receive more than a total cumulative amount of $50,000,000 in expansion funds over the course of the authorization. Migrant and seasonal Head Start programs shall not receive more than a total cumulative amount of $50,000,000 in expansion funds over the course of the authorization. Expansion funds to Indian Head Start programs or migrant or seasonal Head Start programs under these special provisions shall remain available until the end of the following fiscal year. Remaining Funds Of the funds available, the Secretary shall reallocate the portion that the Secretary determines is unobligated 18 months after the funds are made available. From any amount remaining for a fiscal year, the Secretary will reserve 40 percent to fund quality improvement activities, 45 percent to fund Head Start expansion, and 15 percent to fund the development and expansion of state early education councils. If after two years the Secretary does not receive an application for funds (up to $15,000,000) reserved for the implementation of state councils, funds are to be allocated through the formula. If the remaining balance is not sufficient to fund these activities, the Secretary must reserve 45 percent for quality improvement activities and 55 percent for Head Start expansion. The Secretary is directed to reserve 10 percent of quality improvement funds to provide funding to Head Start agencies (including Early Head Start agencies) that demonstrate the greatest need for additional funding. At least 90 percent of such funds must be reserved for allotment to each Head Start agency (including each Early Head Start agency) an amount that bears the same ratio of the number of enrolled children served by the agency involved to the number of enrolled children served by all Head Start agencies (including Early Head Start agencies). In making such determinations the Secretary shall account for the additional costs of serving children in Early Head Start programs and may consider whether an agency is providing a full-day program or a full-year program. Under this section at least 50 percent of the reserved quality improvement funds must be used to carry out specific activities under paragraph (4)(C), including improving the compensation and benefits of educational personnel, family service workers, and child counselors. Any remaining quality improvement funds must be used to support services necessary to address the challenges of children from special populations, improving the physical environment of the agency, employing additional qualified personnel, increasing hours of program operation, improving community wide strategic planning and needs assessments, transporting children, and improving the compensation of agency personnel. Of the 45 percent reserved for program expansion, 50 percent is allocated for the expansion of Head Start programs and 50 percent is allocated for the expansion of Early Head Start programs. The expansion funding for Head Start programs would be provided to States by formula over the course of five years based on the percentage of programs serving 60 percent of eligible participants or less. In year one, 30 percent of expansion funding would be directed at those programs serving fewer than 60 percent of their eligible participants; the remaining 70 percent would go to all programs. In year two the split would be 40/60; year three the split would be 50/50; and years four and five the split would be 55/45. SECTION 7. DESIGNATION OF HEAD START AGENCIES. This section gives the Secretary authority to designate any local public or private nonprofit or for-profit entity as a Head Start agency. To be designated, entities must establish goals to meet Head Start’s performance and outcome standards and to promote school readiness. To continue to receive grants agencies must demonstrate progress toward meeting goals, measured in part on the basis of assessments of Head Start children. Under this section, the Secretary is directed to develop and implement a system for designation renewal that determines whether a Head Start grantee is successfully delivering high quality and comprehensive services. This system will integrate recommendations of an expert panel that will make recommendations to the Secretary on the development of a transparent, reliable, and valid process for designation renewal. Panel members must have expertise in fields relevant to providing Head Start services to eligible children and their families. Within 26 months the panel will make recommendations regarding the implementation of a new system to evaluate the performance of Head Start agencies and whether they are meeting the program performance standards. This report will also be sent to Congress. A grantee determined to be delivering a high-quality and comprehensive Head Start program is designated as a Head Start agency for 5 years. A grantee not delivering a high-quality program may be subject to an open competition. An Indian Head Start agency found not be delivering a high-quality and comprehensive Head Start program must engage in government-to-government consultation with the Secretary to establish a plan to improve the quality of such programs. If no entity in a community is successfully delivering a high-quality program the Secretary must designate a Head Start agency from among qualified applicants in the community. Parent and community involvement is required in this process. SECTION 8. STANDARDS; MONITORING OF HEAD START AGENCIES AND PROGRAMS. This section amends section 641 by directing the Secretary to modify, as necessary, program performance standards. Performance standards are designed to ensure that Head Start students develop and demonstrate gains in academic competencies and reading abilities, cognitive, social, and emotional development, and ensure successful transition to kindergarten. Performance standards are also designed to ensure that limited English