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Head Start: Better data and processes needed to monitor underenrollment

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U. S. General Accounting Office (GAO)
government document
Publication Date: 
4 Dec 2003

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Head Start, created in 1965, is designed to prepare low-income preschool children for school by providing a comprehensive set of early child development services primarily through community based organizations. Over the last decade there have been a number of changes in Head Start’s operating environment, including a decrease in the number of poor children; an increase in the number, size, and scope of other federal and state early childhood programs; and an expansion in Head Start spending and enrollment. Given this environment, GAO was asked to determine (1) what is known about the extent to which Head Start programs are underenrolled, (2) ACF regional officials’ and Head Start grantees’ views on what factors contribute to underenrollment, and (3) what actions ACF and grantees have taken to address underenrollment.

Regional and grantee officials most frequently cited the increased demand for full-day child care, construction delays and inadequate facilities, and the increased availability of early education and child care programs as one of the factors causing underenrollment.