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Posted on Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 8:51 a.m.

Dumping Head Start program doesn't make sense

By Guest Column

Why is the county dumping Head Start?

The easy answer is I don’t know. I’ll admit, I’m new to this whole Head Start thing, but it’s not hard to see that what the county commissioners are saying about getting rid of Head Start as a county run program just isn’t true.

For those readers unfamiliar with Head Start, it is a federally run program that annually provides 561 low-income and at-risk preschool age children and their families services in education, health care, and food. The program pumps over 4.5 million federal dollars into the local economy and provides jobs for over 150 people. Washtenaw County serves as the designated body that manages that fund and employs the administrators that oversee the program. It has done so for over 40 years. The county has decided that it no longer wants to provide this service.


Aaron Pressel

To be fair to the county commissioners, they don’t want to get rid of Head Start altogether, they just don’t want to be responsible for managing the program any longer. They are quick to assure the public that the county Head Start program isn’t going anywhere, and that they are going to work to make sure that someone else takes over the management of the program. The thing is though, that is a promise they simply cannot back up. It would actually be illegal for the county to do anything to assure that the program continues to exist. So it is very possible that this program, its $4.5 million and 150 jobs will just disappear next year.

The only reason that the county has actually given anyone as to why they are dumping Head Start is that they want to save the county money. But that is an easy reason to disprove. The county claims that it will save $360,000 a year by dumping Head Start. The reality is that if the county dumps Head Start, they will immediately have to repay the federal government almost $1 million it spent to build the county Head Start building in Ypsilanti, as well as the almost $150,000 a year that the federal government has given the county in bond payments for the building for each of the seven years it has been used by the program.

To do the math simply, if the county dumps Head Start, it will owe the federal government almost $2 million, which would mean that the county wouldn’t even begin to save money until 2018. And even then, the county can’t be sure that it will actually save the $360,000 per year it’s claiming it will. Unfortunately, that math isn’t as straight forward.

So again, I am left to ask, why is the county dumping Head Start? If they aren’t saving money, and they have no say over whether the program will continue to exist, why risk it? There is no sense, especially in this economy, of burning a dollar to save a dime.

Editor’s note: Kelly Belknap, interim deputy county administrator, said at this time the county has not identified any federal regulations that would substantiate the claim that the county would have to reimburse the federal government for the $2 million. “We will of course work closely with the Regional Head Start office at the appropriate time to ensure all issues related to the this program and the changes proposed are addressed and resolved,” she said.

Aaron Pressel is a resident of Ann Arbor who grew up on the city’s south side. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has spent the last 5 years working in the social service sector providing services and advocating for the county's most at-risk populations.



Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Sorry, the requirement is the building is used for the purpose intended for a certain number of years, or the money must be repaid. That is a pretty standard thing. So if the program goes away, the building will no longer be used for its intended purpose, and the money must be repaid.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:03 a.m.

I find it a little strange to be commenting on my own piece, but perhaps a little clarification is an order. There is no dispute among the commissioners about the usefulness of the program. They want it to continue. My point is that in this particular circumstance the county is gambling that this program will exist under new managment. They are treating it as a certainty, not a chance, which is very unwise. I believe that the chance of the program dissapearing is likely. They have no control over whether the program will continue to exist, but they are claiming they do. If they are right and the program exists under new management, then they will likely save money. However if they are wrong and the program ceases to exist, then they will have to repay the feds for the bond. I am not sure why they don't think this is true. Whenever a building is paid for under an agreement like this, the requiremnet


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

I am not sure where to go with this.. I for one after having 3 kids go through the Head Start program, saw the reason that it is a need in the community. I saw kids coming in not having proper clothing, not eating due to no food.. no basic skills.. not only for the kids but the parents as well.. Head start provides for more then just the student. It embraces the whole family. The teachers, and center directors and everyone involved do this job for the kids.. and not for the money.. and as well all know.. not for the glory. The people that the Head start programs serve are the ones that have no money, food and resources. I myself benefited from the program.. as it taught me leadership skills, gave me the will to as they would say " Break the Cycle" of poverty. THey helped me become the small business owner I am today! and when you say that this does nothing for the kids.. you are wrong.. My son being the first of three kids is now in College and getting his degree and lives in a different state all at the ripe old age of 19, the first of my daughters is living in her own place and in school, and the third is a sophomore at Lincoln high school. If it were not for the head start program.. I am not sure if I would be the person I am today.. or even be in the same spot. I think that if you are considering cutting the Head Start program .. please take a look around.. and see that the program not only helps the children, but also the families that they serve. See where and how it makes all the difference in the world.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

Mr. Shepard.. I do understand your point.. and I see what you are saying.. I too feel that there are to many people out there that take advantage of the Welfare system.. ALthough I have to say that I do feel very passionately about this .. because I see the success stories and I am one of them.. Maybe Washtenaw county should look at Monroe county program .. they to were at one time looking for a some other program to take over the grant.. Catholic social services took over the Grant for the Head Start program many years ago.. and I was lucky enough to be part of that process, ( taught me alot) .. I would like to see the Head Start program continue in this area.. It benefits so many!There can be a solution to this issue!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:54 p.m.

Again, you miss the point. You are stuck on your own experience as an indicator of a global success that does not exist. Using your logic, I can say that because I never attended Head Start and am very successful, Head Start was unnecessary for me to become successful so is unnecessary for everyone. Get it? The truth is that the decline in personal responsibly inspired by democrats beginning in the 60's is responsible for an unimaginable amount of poverty and misery. Head Start is another failed democrat program and should be ended. I do support the development of privately run and government financed orphanages, however, that could care for children in a supportive environment as a means to force those refusing work back on the job or out Michigan.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Mr. Shepard.. Not sure what world you live in.. but in mine.. it was the resources that was offered to me. It was someone mentoring me through the rough times.. you do not understand how limited life looks when you really have no avenue to travel...The reason I am where I am today is in a big part due to the head start program. THey taught the skills that I needed to succeed.. to help better my kids life.. Mr. shepard...I hope you will never be in a position that you need any sort of service.. The way you are for cutting these programs..might not serve you well in the future!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:23 a.m.

Your story is anecdotal and irrelevant to the point, which is the absurdity of assigning responsibility to a child's future to a government program. The notion that it takes a government program to prevent parents from raising future criminals is beyond chilling and the fact that people accept that as inevitable a symptom of a much bigger problem. The children will never "break the cycle" - it will be teens and adults who stop making babies out of wedlock like it's an involuntary bodily function and government who stops rewording them for it in the hope of buying another vote.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:32 a.m.

Thank you for sharing your story! I'm glad the program helped you and your kids break the cycle. What a success story. I hope the program can continue or something similar can be put in place.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

Sorry Mr. Pressel Taking a layer out of the government administration of this program is a RIGHT answer. This means more money in the classroom. I commend the County Commission for getting out of the way. To the best of my ability to dig into the program and the funding in Washtenaw County - your claim is unfounded. NO money needs to be returned only a new administrator declared - in this case for Ypsilanti, maybe YPS could do this like AAPS does for its service area.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 6:48 p.m.

Some here believe that all would be right if only GOVERNMENT SPENT MORE MONEY ON THE RIGHT COMBINATION OF PROGRAMS? More spending = more success? I'm sure you all "FEEL" that way and as such are a useful democrats tools. If it were true, you would be telling us that x children in Head Start = x reduction in crime and x savings to the prison system. Only problem with that is you can't because it "aint" true. Head Start has failed to provide a head start (higher grades in school) or reduce crime and nothing you can write disputes those facts. All you can point to is some carefully crafted statements that push aside the basic truth. Many live in world where wishing results and leftist good intentions is the same as actual results and success. This is the make-believe realm of "the government" where results and reward are virtually unrelated. A core problem is that a government program is trying to simulate successful child services provided by churches without the faith or values that make them successful. Church based programs are also long term – extending well into teens – and are ethically based and supported by parents. Head start is a secular "government program" that strips away almost everything that matters in favor of the politically correct while wishing for results that don't exist. ..not a good message for kids when the organization they attend has to cook the facts to keep the tax dollars rolling in. The key is to dump failed democrat policies, restore the American Nuclear Family and stop enabling the bad behavior that leads to failed families forced to support democrats for their free checks. Clearly Ed is not adept at statistics! LOL

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Mr. Ed wrote: &quot;A big waste of tax dollars. 4.5 million to help 541 children and provide 150 jobs. Very expensive.&quot; Let's do some simple math. $4.5 million/150 = $30,000 per year per job. Gee, that's $6K above the poverty line. $4.5 million/541 children = $8300/child/year IF Head Start is only day care, one might have a fair argument that $8300/year is not money well spent. But contrary to the unsupported statements of the usual suspects, Head Start does work. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> That being the case, $8300 is a very small investment to help a child start K-12 on an equal basis with their peers, thereby making far more likely that they will succeed in school and thereby as an adult. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:37 a.m.

Apparently not. GN&amp;GL


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

I read the same reports as you did. Conclusion the same.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

I have links. You? GN&amp;GL


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

Ghost: Recent studies provides no conclusive proof that Head Start works. As a Matter of fact, its been documented that Head Start focus mostly on the social development of the youngsters, provide health screening and nutritional meals but whatever gains they make in those areas are lost when they enter regular classrooms settings. Its been shown that because Head Start provides a supportive atmosphere, the children benefit. However, when they enter the regular school setting that is less supportive and more demanding of both the child and parent, those gains tend to erode. Plus, the staff of the Head Start Program are not necessarily the best trained in that field. The Program should be situated as a lab program at Eastern Michigan University that is known for its excellent teacher development. I've done some research on the pay Head Start staff and benefits Head Start staff receives from the County and they are such that one could attract quality staff. At this time, I see nothing wrong with exploring an alternative provider but we should be more concerned about making sure the program ends up being administered by a provider where you have an overall qualified educational staff administering it.

Lifelong A2

Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

Unfortunately, both Mr. Pressel's opinion and shepard145's comments are way off, but from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Mr. Pressel: you answered your own question about why the County is transferring management of Head Start. The County has been subsidizing Head Start for years, but can't afford to do so anymore in this fiscal climate of declining property tax revenues. The Editor's note correctly points out that there is no federal repayment identified. Your source, Mr. Pressel, was inaccurate, and I urge you to confront that source. shepard145: Head Start has proven, time and again, to improve educational levels for low-income children, thereby reducing the likelihood of future criminal activity. Education is, far and away, the best investment we as taxpayers can make in our population, and the sooner we start -- i.e., at ages 3 and 4 with programs like Head Start -- the more money we save in the long run, and the more prosperous our society will become. Unfortunately, your all-government-is-bad mentality demonstrates a lack of understanding of elementary American history. All government programs exist for a reason: because without them, something bad happened, and we as a society decided we didn't want that bad thing to happen anymore.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

It is important to distinguish between the one county program that the county has been administering directly as the grantee (Ypsilanti) and the others delegated to school systems within the county (Ann Arbor, Whitmore Lake, and Willow Run). See <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It is my impression that the action the BOC is taking relates only to the grantee Ypsilanti program, but I have not seen any discussion of how the delegate programs would fare under a new arrangement. Aside from the question of whether the county would have to pay back any funds to the Federal Government for construction of the Ypsilanti school building, what is the fate of that building? I assume that the county would have to continue paying on the bonds issued to construct the facility. Who owns it? Would Ypsilanti Head Start still operate from that building? Would the county simply make a gift of the building to the new grantee (WISD, for example) and then continue paying the bonds? When I was on the BOC, we were &quot;sold&quot; on that building by being assured by former administrators that Federal rents would pay for it in full and the county would not incur any liability. It was revealed in just a few months that the Federal funds did not, in fact, pay for the building in full. Now it looks as though the county has assumed a complex liability. No argument about the value of early childhood education. I wish that every child everywhere could have meaningful preschool available.

Mr. Ed

Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

Shepared-- You hit are so right. A big waste of tax dollars. 4.5 million to help 541 children and provide 150 jobs. Very expensive. What are the past results and facts for success. What is the admin cost to run the program? So many questions so few answer's.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

Founded in 1965 and expanded by Congress in 1981, everyone knows that Head Start is just another phony democrat government jobs failure we can no longer afford. If you really want to know why it should be shut down, look at the facts - it doesn't work. The kids make no measurable improvement - it's a very expensive government financed babysitting program. If anyone really cared about performance, they would work to restore traditional work ethics and the family as an institution, which would eliminate the kind of child poverty these &quot;programs&quot; feed on. Steps should be taken to counter the democrat party's very successful war on the American nuclear family by de-incentivizing teen and single welfare moms. The American Nuclear Family made this country great and democrats continue to try to kill it off by creating an impoverished voting block addicted to the free taxpayer dollars used to fund miserable, selfish, narcissistic, work free lives....who are told they only need to vote democrat to keep it going. I am not referring to those temporarily between jobs, but those gaming the system and trying to live off their working neighbors tax dollars indefinitely. Like everything Congress does, this is another failure that needs to go. Responsible families need to raise their own children – not the government.