SEATTLE -- An overhaul of Head Start, a federal preschool program for low-income families, could drastically limit the amount of class space for children in Washington state, according to education advocates. School leaders say the proposed changes will also limit parents' involvement in the program.
The overhaul would expand Head Start from a half day – 3 ½ hours -- to a full 6-hour preschool day. That change could force more than 100 students at the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle, and many more students across the state, out of Head Start.
"I think it's an excellent program for families and children as a whole," said Head Start mom Darsheen Sargent.
Sargent was once in Head Start. She just celebrated her daughter, Serenity, completing the program at Children's Home Society in South Seattle.
"I like to read books and doing math," said Serenity.
For the youngsters at Children's Home Society, Head Start is a half-day. Only eight percent of spaces are full-day in Washington state compared to 56 percent for a national average. Proposed changes would mean more children being taught at the same time with limited resources and space.
"We have tremendous facility issues," Denise Louie Education Center executive director Susan Yang said. "We are actually probably in the worst area because we're in an urban corridor where facilities are really difficult to find."
School leaders believe moving to the full-day preschool requirement could mean the loss of roughly 2,400 class spaces in Washington. Educators say full-day preschool is beneficial, just not practical in this area.
The changes would also take away decision-making powers from parents which is something Sargent is against.
"Parents and children and teachers are able to come together in schools and work as a whole," said Sargent.
The proposed changes would come from Congress. Anyone who wants to read the full proposal or comment on it can do so until Sept. 18 at this link. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/06/19/2015-14379/head-start-performance-standards#h-9