ISSUE #2: Reauthorizing Head Start and Implementing New Performance Standards

Head Start and Early Head Start continue to await reauthorization, even as new performance standards begin.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs were not reauthorized in 2017, and despite an $85 million increase in funding included in the final 2017 omnibus1 budget signed by President Trump on May 5, 2017, future funding for the program is at risk. President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 funds Head Start at the same level as FY 2016 and does not include the $85 million increase in the omnibus amendment. If adopted, this approach would represent a significant decrease in Head Start funding at a time when program operators are implementing new, increased performance standards. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal agency responsible for overseeing Head Start, has seen a change of leadership.  HHS Secretary Tom Price, a former legislator who advocated for state control of Head Start programs, resigned in September, and Eric D. Hargan was appointed as acting secretary. Hargan was part of the Trump administration transition team and held leaderships positions at HHS for several years during the George W. Bush administration. President Trump nominated Alex Azar (former George W. Bush HHS administration official) to head the agency, but Azar has yet to be confirmed.

1An omnibus budget packages many of the smaller regular appropriations bills into one larger single bill that could be passed with only one vote in each house.