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H.R. 2123 (109th): School Readiness Act of 2005

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

9/22/2005--Passed House amended. School Readiness Act of 2005 - Amends the Head Start Act to revise and reauthorize Head Start programs.

(Sec. 4) Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide financial assistance to Head Start agencies for five-year periods.

(Sec. 5) Extends the authorization of appropriations for Head Start programs through FY2011.

(Sec. 6) Sets forth allotment provisions, as well as limitations on and authorized uses of Head Start funds. Reserves specified portions of Head Start funds for Indian, migrant and seasonal, training and technical assistance, and Early Head Start programs.

Revises authorized uses of quality improvement funds to include outreach to homeless families, migrant and seasonal farmworker families, and families with children with a limited English proficiency.

Directs the Secretary (who is currently authorized) to award collaboration grants for Head Start and other related-agencies within states.

Includes models that leverage existing capacities and capabilities of the delivery system of early childhood education and child care among locally designed or specialized service delivery models for Head Start programs.

Requires the Secretary, in allotting funds for expansion of Head Start programs, to consider the extent that an applicant: (1) has involved providers of family support services and protective services for children and families in community-wide strategic planning and needs assessments (among other entities); and (2) plans to coordinate its services with a community liaison designated under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001 (homeless education liaison), as well as (under current law) with the education services of the local educational agency (LEA).

Directs the Secretary to require Head Start agencies to: (1) implement policies and procedures to ensure that eligible homeless children are identified and prioritized for enrollment; (2) allow homeless families to apply to, enroll in, and attend Head Start programs while required documents, such as proof of residency, immunization and other medical records, birth certificates and other documents, are obtained within a reasonable time frame; and (3) coordinate individual Head Start centers and programs with efforts to implement homeless children education programs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Declares that nothing in the Act shall be construed to require: (1) a state to establish a program of early education for children; or (2) require any child to participate in a program of early education, attend school, or participate in any initial screening prior to participation in such program (except as provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Requires all curricula and instructional materials funded under the Act to be: (1) scientifically based and age appropriate; and (2) available for parental inspection, upon request.

(Sec. 7) Includes community-based or faith-based organizations among the entities that may be designated as Head Start agencies.

Requires eligible entities, in order to be designated as Head Start agencies and receive financial assistance initially and subsequently, to establish and demonstrate they have met measurable goals for: (1) school readiness of participating children; (2) meeting performance standards; (3) educational instruction in prereading, pre-mathematical, and language skills; and (4) provision of health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services related to school readiness. Requires such entities to align Head Start curricula with state-developed academic content standards and the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework developed by the Secretary.

Directs the Secretary to give priority in designation of Head Start agencies to those that: (1) are receiving Head Start assistance; (2) meet or exceed certain program, financial, and education standards; (3) have no unresolved area of noncompliance and have not been deemed deficient since the most recent designation; (4) employ qualified staff and provide ongoing professional development opportunities; (5) have an independent board of directors to provide direction and actively oversee all program activities; and (6) meet other criteria relating to adequate enrollment, curricula, child development outcomes, classroom environment, partnerships with various entities, fiscal controls, state child care licensing, parental involvement, and outreach to at-risk families.

Requires the Secretary, when no entity in a community has priority, to conduct an open competition among qualified applicants in such community. Directs the Secretary, in selecting from among qualified applicants for designation, to consider the effectiveness of each applicant to provide Head Start services, based on specified factors.

(Sec. 8) Revises the additional educational performance standards included as program quality standards, and performance measures for program monitoring.

Requires Head Start agencies to establish procedures for evaluating and correcting their delegate agencies, including procedures for defunding and for appealing defunding decisions.

Requires Head Start agencies to report to the Secretary on enrollment in their Head Start programs. Directs the Secretary to review such reports and develop plans to reduce or eliminate underenrollment in the case of any agency operating a program with an enrollment that is less than 95% of its funded enrollment. Provides for recapture, reduction, or withholding of a portion of an agency's base grant in cases of programs with chronic underenrollment.

(Sec. 9) Revises requirements for local Head Start agencies, including designation qualifications, coordination and collaboration, and assessment. Requires each agency to establish an independent board of directors. Requires each agency to enroll 100% of its funded enrollment, and to maintain an active waiting list and outreach to the community and underserved populations.

Allows Head Start agencies to develop or maintain partnerships with institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations that recruit, train, place, and support college students to serve as mentors and reading coaches to preschool children in Head Start programs.

(Sec. 10) Requires Head Start alignment with K-12 education to ensure effective transition through: (1) continuity of developmentally appropriate curricula between Head Start and local educational agencies; (2) joint training, including transition-related training for school staff and Head Start staff; (3) family outreach and support, and continuity in parental involvement; (4) linking of the services provided; (5) increased program participation of underserved populations of eligible children; and (6) alignment of Head Start curricula with state early learning standards and the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework.

(Sec. 11) Requires local and state integration of early childhood education through: (1) Head Start agency partnerships with local educational agencies and state-funded preschool and other early childhood programs; (2) early learning collaboration grants for State Early Learning Councils; and (3) a State Director for Head Start Collaboration.

(Sec. 12) Requires Head Start agencies to publish and make available to the public annual reports that disclose specified financial and other program information.

(Sec. 13) Limits to 10% of total enrollment the permissible participation of children in the area served who would benefit from Head Start programs, including children referred by child welfare agencies, but whose families do not meet prescribed low-income criteria.

Exempts military housing from being counted as family income in determining a child's eligibility to enroll in a Head Start program.

(Sec. 14) Revises requirements for Early Head Start programs for families with infants and toddlers.

Directs the Secretary to ensure that, by September 30, 2008, all teachers providing direct services to children and families in programs in Early Head Start centers have a minimum of a child development associate credential or an associate degree, and have been trained or have equivalent course work in early childhood development. Requires professional development to increase program participation for underserved populations of eligible children.

Provides for Early Head Start: (1) services to parents, including training in parenting skills and in basic child development; (2) coordination with home-based services; and (3) linkages with agencies and early intervention providers under the Individuals with Disabilities Act and with agencies under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

Includes among eligible providers of Early Head Start services: (1) migrant and seasonal Head Start programs; and (2) community- and faith-based organizations.

(Sec. 15) Requires Head Start agencies to obtain informed written parental consent before administration of any health care service, including any screening or any nonemergency intrusive physical examination of a child, in connection with participation in a Head Start program.

(Sec. 16) Prohibits use of Head Start funds to reimburse any Head Start financial assistance recipient for legal fees and other costs incurred in pursuing appeals of terminations, reductions, or suspensions of such assistance or of certain denials of applications for noncompeting continuation awards.

(Sec. 17) Requires Head Start agencies to undergo independent annual audits, within 270 days after the end of each fiscal year, which comply with requirements of the Single Audit Act.

(Sec. 18) Revises training and technical assistance requirements.

Includes technical assistance for: (1) increasing program participation of homeless children; and (2) outreach and services to children with limited English proficiency and their families.

Includes community- and faith-based organizations among entities eligible for grants to train Head Start personnel in using performing and visual arts and interactive electronic media programs to enhance children's learning experiences.

Revises requirements for supporting an organization that administers a centralized child development and national assessment program leading to recognized credentials. Includes among such requirements training for personnel providing services to children who are: (1) abused or neglected; or (2) referred by or receiving child welfare services.

Directs the Secretary to provide funds to train Head Start personnel in addressing the unique needs of migrant and seasonal working families, families with a limited English proficiency, homeless families, and families with children with disabilities.

Requires the use of more than 50% of training and technical assistance funds expenditures to provide classroom-focused training and technical assistance. Requires such funds to be used for activities related to: (1) education and early childhood development; (2) child health, nutrition, and safety; (3) family and community partnerships; or (4) other areas affecting the quality or effectiveness of Head Start programs.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) develop and implement an outreach program to train and recruit African-American and Latino-American men to become Head Start teachers; and (2) collaborate with specified officials and entities to ensure Head Start program access for children of migrant and seasonal families and for American Indian and Alaska Native children.

(Sec. 19) Revises requirements for staff qualifications and development. Directs the Secretary to ensure that, by September 30, 2011, at least 50% of all Head Start teachers nationwide in center-based programs have a baccalaureate or advanced degree: (1) in early childhood education; or (2) in a field related to early childhood education, with experience in teaching preschool children. Requires all new Head Start teachers to have at least an associate degree or be enrolled in a program working towards that degree within three years of enactment of this Act.

Requires Head Start teachers who have received financial assistance under the Act to teach in a Head Start Center for an amount of time equal to the time period in which they received financial assistance.

Directs every Head Start agency and program to create professional development plans for all full-time employees who provide direct services to children.

(Sec. 20) Revises requirements for research, demonstrations, and evaluation.

Requires the use of Head Start programs to develop, test, and disseminate new ideas and approaches for addressing the needs of low-income abused or neglected children and their families and communities.

Repeals the mandate for a study comparing the educational achievement, social adaptation, and health status of children participating in Head Start programs with that of eligible but non-participating children.

Directs the Secretary to use certain funds to contract with the National Academy of Sciences for the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the National Research Council to establish an independent panel of experts to: (1) review and synthesize research, theory, and applications in the social, behavioral, and biological sciences; and (2) make recommendations on early childhood pedagogy with regard to specified issues.

Directs the Secretary to study the status of children with limited English proficiency and their families in Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Requires the Secretary to: (1) temporarily suspend implementation of the National Reporting System pending completion of the panel's recommendations; and (2) integrate such recommendations to develop a national assessment system.

(Sec. 21) Includes homeless children among those Head Start participants whose status the Secretary reports on biennially.

Requires the Secretary to report annually to specified congressional committees on the status of the National Reporting System.

(Sec. 22) Limits the rate of federal funding for compensation in excess of the level II rate of the Executive Schedule to any individual employed by a Head Start agency.

(Sec. 23) Prohibits use of Head Start funds: (1) for publicity or propaganda purposes unauthorized by Congress; or (2) unless authorized by federal law, to produce any prepackaged news story intended for broadcast or distribution unless such story includes a clear notification that it was prepared or funded by the Department of HHS.

(Sec. 26) Directs the Secretary to contract with an intermediary organization for a management reform initiative to evaluate: (1) HHS's monitoring of Head Start grantees, overseeing the Head Start Bureau, and managing specified program aspects, including resource allocation and selection of Head Start agencies; and (2) best practice Head Start models, early warning systems to identify programs that need intervention, and processes to assist such programs in implementing necessary improvements.

(Sec. 27) Allots a specified minimum amount in FY2006-FY2007 for such management initiative reform activities.

(Sec. 28) Directs the Secretary to report to Congress on Head Start teacher retention levels, within one year after implementation of Head Start teacher qualifications and development requirements of this Act.

(Sec. 29) Includes consideration of the needs of homeless children, children in foster care, and children referred by child welfare agencies, under specified requirements for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

(Sec. 30) Directs the Secretary to provide technical assistance, guidance, and resources, to assist in providing Head Start services to children affected by Hurricane Katrina, to Head Start agencies that: (1) are in Hurricane Katrina-disaster areas; or (2) receive a significant number of such children from such areas.

Provides that the Secretary, for the period up to March 31, 2006, and so far as the Secretary considers appropriate: (1) may waive Head Start Act requirements limiting the federal share of funding; and (2) shall waive documentation requirements for affected children who participate in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. (Sec. 31) Exempts religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, and societies from certain Head Start program nondiscrimination requirements, with respect to employment of individuals of a particular religion.