Obama Unveils New Head Start Rules

Nov 8, 2011 1:38pm

ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer report:

Continuing his executive action campaign, President Obama today announced new rules for recipients of federal Head Start funding and attacked Republicans for failing to act on his education reform agenda. 

“The Republicans in Washington have been trying to gut our investments in education,” Obama said at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center outside of Philadelphia,  citing Republican efforts to cut funding for Head Start and Pell grants that help students pay for college. The president also bashed Republicans for voting against his $447 billion jobs bill, which he says would put teachers back in the classroom. 

“After trying for months to work with Congress on education, we decided to take matters into our own hands, because our future’s at stake.  Our children deserve action, and we can’t wait for Congress any longer,” Obama said. 

In the latest installment of his “we can’t wait” campaign, the president announced new rules requiring low-performing Head Start early childhood development centers to compete for federal education funds. 

Obama, who described the program as “a critical investment” and an “economic imperative,” said “the children who have the chance to go to the best Head Start programs have an experience that can literally change their lives for years to come.” 

According to the president, the current rules governing Head Start fail to provide adequate accountability. “Under the new rules, programs are going to be regularly evaluated against a set of clear high standards.  If a program meets these standards — and we believe the majority of Head Start programs will — then their grants will be renewed,” he explained.

Despite taking matters into his own hands, the president stressed that Congress “still needs to act” on education reforms. “Congress still needs to fix No Child Left Behind.  Congress still needs to put teachers back in the classroom where they belong,” Obama said. “But if Congress continues to stand only for dysfunction and delay, then I’m going to move ahead without them.” 

Before  his speech, the president toured the Yeadon Head Start center,  joining some of the children as they played with Legos and blocks. “They are just so huggable at this age” the president later said of the toddlers, joking that his daughters are “still huggable, but they’re 5 feet 9  and 5 feet [tall].”

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