Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Head Start "Recompetition": An Attack on CAAs?

In December 2011, the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services announced the first round of 132 agencies that would be subject to competition based on new, stringent regulations from the Head Start Reauthorization Act of 2009. In many cases, the reasons for agencies being placed on the list were minor and arbitrary "findings". In addition, many of the decisions were based on findings that were dismissed at the regional office, but then overturned by officials in Washington, DC. Most troubling is that there is no due process for appeal! HHS has announced a quota system for 10 percent of Head Start agencies subject to competition per year. RFPs are soon to go out inviting any party that wants to bid to assume control of a prorgam and the multi-year leases that agencies already have under agreement.

These actions by federal HHS are worrisome that officials have an alternative motive. These actions are on top of the Obama Adminsitration's proposal last year for a massive budget cut to the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) and then Administration officials confirming that the remainder would be put out for competitive bidding. As most community action agencies sponsor Head Start Programs, one has to wonder if this is a not so subtle message from HHS that the Administration is determined to take away Head Start contracts as a way of putting community action agencies in fiscal peril and then stripping their exclusive use of CSBG?