Coalition Letter to members of the House of Representatives urging opposition to H.R. 2210--The School Readiness Act as written presently

June 17, 2003

Dear Member of Congress:

We wrote to you on June 10th urging you to oppose H.R. 2210, the School Readiness Act, unless significant changes were made in the legislation. We regret that after subcommittee and full committee mark up those changes have not been made. Therefore, we write to you once again today in opposition to the legislation and urge you to reject H.R. 2210.

The centerpiece of the legislation is its proposal to turn the successful Head Start program over to cash-strapped states, without requiring that these state programs meet Head Start’s performance standards, which guarantee comprehensive services to this nation’s most vulnerable children and their families. The Head Start program has been studied, tested, evaluated and given high marks for nearly 40 years. Head Start not only prepares children for school by providing a solid foundation in cognitive learning and socialization skills, but also helps make them “ready to learn” by providing the comprehensive health, dental and nutritional services critically needed by our at-risk children. H.R. 2210 ignores the critical role that families play in the success of Head Start and cuts out the role of 900,000 parent volunteers.

Adding to our concern is the fact that this bill does not authorize the necessary resources either to strengthen or expand Head Start. Though the bill requires half of all Head Start teachers to have a BA degree by 2008, there is no funding to ensure that Head Start programs will be able to attract and retain qualified teachers. In fact, existing funding for training is cut. The bill does not include the necessary funding levels to reach the significant numbers of children who could benefit from Head Start and Early Head Start. Finally, we are disappointed at the lack of commitment to our nation’s migrant and seasonal farmworker families who will remain woefully underserved if this legislation is adopted.

For these reasons, we respectfully request that you oppose H.R. 2210.