OPINION
Senate Bill 60 leaves state taxpayers paying more for early childhood education

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

By Troy Roberts
Blue Grass Community Action Partnership Executive Director

For the last 58 years, Kentucky Community Action Head Start agencies have directly and independently operated Head Start. Collectively, we are the experts for Head Start in 96 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. To be clear, the state of Kentucky does not have a single Head Start director. Just like every school district has a superintendent, every Head Start program has a Head Start director.

We, Kentucky’s Community Action Head Start, ask you to amend Senate Bill 60 and work with us to develop language for a statute that will strengthen the relationships that exist between local school districts and local Head Start programs.

The issue at hand is something called the “full utilization” of Head Start federal funding, and more broadly, who can make decisions for Head Start enrollment in Kentucky.

Why does this matter? Full utilization safeguards every dollar our state has access to for early childhood education—both Head Start federal funding and state taxpayer funding used for public preschool education. Full utilization ensures federal resources are used first in all counties while maximizing the number of children enrolled in Head Start and preschool programs, or both.

So, what is our request of you? We believe that Head Start and school districts come to the early childhood table as equals. However, the proposed language in SB 60, related to handling disputes when they arise, will erode our current collaboration and eliminate a fair and equitable process for the Head Start community. Therefore, we ask that the chief state school officer be removed from the language and replaced with an independent, third-party arbitrator that will hold no biases when hearing disputes.

We further ask you to amend Senate Bill 60 and include new language in subsection (8) to read as follows: “Any person aggrieved by a certification issued under authority of this section shall have the right of an appeal by filing a petition with the Office of the Attorney General for a hearing pursuant to KRS Chapter 13B.”

By adding this language to the bill, we can agree with Senator Wise when he said Senate Bill 60 will “…improve the working relationships and collaborations between local school districts and local Head Start directors….”

Troy Roberts is the Executive Director of Blue Grass Community Action Partnership (BGCAP). BGCAP directly operates Head Start in 6 Kentucky counties serving 303 children and their families.