If it’s broken, fix it

Published 9:14 pm Saturday, March 5, 2011

Last week, the Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project shuttered its dozens of Head Start locations throughout Hampton Roads because it was broke.

The organization wouldn’t be able to make the March payroll, so it locked the doors and posted a letter on the front doors of every location informing parents that the program had shut down.

Head Start is a federal program that is administered by the Office of Head Start to provide early education services to economically disadvantaged children — a noble goal.

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However, the program is badly in need of repair. The federal Administration for Children and Families has an entire agency — the Community Development Institute — dedicated to taking over the program from local agencies. When the local agency — in this case, the STOP Organization — fails to administer the program correctly, the Community Development Institute comes in and tries again.

According to CDI’s website, it has come to the rescue of more than 100 Head Start programs in the last 10 years.

Whatever your opinion of federal entitlement programs, it’s clear something is wrong when multiple local programs per year are failing. Whether the breakdown is at the federal or local level, it needs to be fixed before more taxpayer-funded programs bite the dust.

If all Head Start programs around the country are being managed in the same way as the local program — and the other 100-some that Community Development Institute has pulled from the quicksand — then it’s clear they’re all at risk, and they’re all funded with millions of taxpayers’ dollars.

Local STOP officials have been mum about what went wrong. Maybe a federal investigation will get them talking and serve as a learning experience for the feds about how to fix Head Start.