Head Start and Education

Designed to meet the needs of the parents and children, Head Start officials now fear that the original mission of the program will be compromised with a new proposal from the Bush administration.

The proposal calls for Head Start to come under the control of the U.S. Department of Education and focus more on academics, rather than operate independently.

"We want to make sure that we help with everything. Because our children are facing situations that wouldn't normally happen to children that young and we have to deal with that before we can deal with a 'so called' normal situation in getting them ready to learn," said Dr. Dor Hearon, director of Head Start Program Services.

Over the years, the role of Head Start has expanded. At some centers they now even offer year-round service, extended hours and service for infants.

Head Start now also provides family counseling and helps parents find jobs. If the proposal is approved, Head Start advocate, Rep. Charles Young of Meridian, said he fears that the funding for many of these programs will be cut and fewer children served.

"As it is right now, the funds come directly into Mississippi Action for Progress. There is no in between," said Young. "If we go by the Bush plan, then it has to deal with the bureaucracy."

Supporters of the proposal say it would close the gap between what children learn in Head Start and elementary school. The measure is now before Congress.