The federal government’s Head Start program comes under scrutiny today by the House Education and Labor Committee, which will examine a Government Accountability Office investigation that discovered fraudulent behavior and unlawful actions in the program’s enrollment and eligibility processes.
Chairman George Miller (D-CA) called today’s 1:30 p.m. committee hearing after learning of GAO’s undercover investigation. Last week Miller asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to conduct an immediate review of Head Start, an early childhood education program first started in 1965. The GAO report is not yet publicly available.
These developments about Head Start come in the wake of the recently released Head Start Impact Study, which showed no lasting impact on children who participated in Head Start by the time they reached first grade.
In his letter to Sebelius addressing the GAO investigation, Miller wrote:
I have learned of an undercover investigation and upcoming report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that has found reportedly unlawful actions by local Head Start grantees regarding their admissions and eligibility practices.
These allegations raise significant concerns about the integrity of the admissions and family eligibility process administered by Head Start grantees. This issue requires your immediate attention and action. …
Accordingly, I request that HHS immediately review the grantees identified by the GAO investigation to determine what action is needed to ensure that grantees operating Head Start Programs are complying with the law, including evaluating the appropriateness of the grantee continuing to receive Head Start funds, and determining whether the employees identified by the GAO investigation should be placed on administrative leave pending further investigation.
Testifying at today’s hearing are Carmen R. Nazario, assistant secretary for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Gregory D. Kutz, managing director of forensic audits and special investigations at the Government Accountability Office.