The lead-in to spring is always an exciting time in Head Start: for many programs, self-assessment and robust planning for the coming school year are starting up right now to inform your work through the end of the summer and beyond. As a federally-funded program, Head Start is also subject to changes and initiatives in national policy and funding levels. As our colleagues at NHSA pointed out in December, the 2016 omnibus spending bill included several exciting provisions and changes related to Head Start funding levels, resulting in more than $570M in additional funding for Head Start and Early Head Start overall. These increases are largely comprised of:
- Additional funding for EHS-CCP and Early Head Start conversions and associated administration and evaluation at the Federal level ($135 million – now expected to be posted in May)
- A COLA increase of approximately 1.75% ($141 million)
- Special supplemental funding for grantees to increase hours of operations ($294 million)
A comparison between 2015 and 2016 fiscal year funding for the Head Start program, broken out into categories, is below, with key categories of increase indicated in bold:
These funding increases speak to a clear focus from OHS on two areas that we know have been hot topics over the course of the last year and more – the expansion of Early Head Start and the shift to birth-to-three services, as well as the push toward full-day services in Head Start wherever possible. The robust conversation over the NPRM on the Head Start Performance Standards in 2015 generated a massive amount of conversation and among providers about how to continue to provide high-quality services for a similar number of children if there was no additional funding available with which to make that happen – this year’s funding increase speaks to a promising recognition at the Federal level that there will be a substantial investment of resources needed to make that happen.
As of this moment, programs are pending Federal guidance on when and how most of these initiatives will be rolled out. Now that we know that the EHS-CCP funding will be distributed via a new round of competitive grants, will the FOA follow the 2014 example – targeting Promise Zones and specific zip codes nationwide? When and how will grantees be able to submit proposals for hours-of-service expansion, and what would be the expected timeframe for implementation? These initiatives are going to keep many programs very busy for a considerable amount of time in 2016 – but the exact timeframe and logistics are still in question.
The follow-up question, though, may be more important – how do these funding changes line up with your program’s priorities in 2016? Will they help your program to accomplish one or more of its long-term strategic goals? Do they open up new opportunity that you and your senior leaders will want to explore? Or will these opportunities need to be set aside in favor of more internally-driven initiatives and developments over the course of the year?
We are particularly interested in hearing whether our readers will be pursuing an EHS-CCP grant this spring. Does your program have an EHS-CCP grant already? If so, what do you think about the expansion of that model?