Head Start and Early Head Start Programs modified in El Dorado County
On June 17, the El Dorado County Office of Education secured the necessary funding to continue our Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, preserving many jobs and supporting children ages birth through 5 and families on their path to self-sufficiency and life preparedness. EDCOE was successful in its award by committing to rigorous, national program standards and staffing criteria in accordance with requirements established by the federal government, which funds the grants. Applications that do not meet these requirements are rejected and do not receive funding, even if they are the only applicant for their service area. The grant awarded to EDCOE yielded sufficient funding to reemploy existing staff as well as hire additional staff to provide quality programs that benefit families in our county.
The application process was extremely competitive, and EDCOE has never been required to re-compete for Head Start and Early Head Start programs in over 40 years of operation. We recognize the critical importance of providing a continuum of services from birth through adulthood and greatly value our educators, and much time and effort was taken to make our application successful. Not every Head Start and Early Head Start grant application was awarded funds — according to an Aug. 21 article in EdCentral (a source of objective analysis for educators, policymakers and the public), 30 percent of grant applicants nationally were completely unsuccessful or lost some funding. Providing quality education to the students and families of El Dorado County is our responsibility, and we refused to fail.
Some responsible changes had to be made to match national averages for program standards and staffing criteria to achieve this grant, which maximize resources and taxpayer dollars. Services to children in the Head Start classrooms were reduced by 30 minutes per day and by five calendar days at the end of the school year to better align with elementary schools in our county. Historical program data indicated that more than half the students were either dropped off late, picked up early, or did not attend at all during those times. In fact, some classrooms had fewer than five children per day out of a class of 20 children enrolled. These changes allowed us to be fiscally responsible to tax payers and responsive to the demonstrated needs of our families. With this new grant funding, EDCOE was not only able to increase the quality of services provided to our children and families, it allowed us the opportunity to increase our funded enrollment from 493 to 508 students served.
EDCOE is extremely proud of this grant and the resources it brings to this community. And of course, we will work with our employee groups on a successful implementation.
JEREMY M. MEYERS
El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools