The Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo (EOPA) is out as operator of the Head Start preschool program in Lucas County. The federal government has denied EOPA’s appeal of the cancellation of its contract. Next month, EOPA’s $13 million annual Head Start grant runs out.
So what is the future of Head Start in Toledo? Who will run the program that serves more than 2,000 poor children? Parents already are registering children for the next school year, which starts in September. What will happen to the program’s 300 teachers and aides, most of whom are women and support families?
This year, for the first time, Toledo’s Head Start grant was opened to competing bids by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The results were not good: The department announced that none of the applicants, which included EOPA and Toledo Public Schools, met the standards to win the bid.
A new round of bidding is under way. TPS officials say they plan to reapply and remain confident about their prospects for administering Head Start. Meanwhile, a Denver-based company, has been chosen to run the program on an interim basis.
But no one knows how long that interim will be, or even where Head Start sites will be located. That uncertainty cannot be allowed to continue.
Head Start employees apparently must “compete” for their jobs. If employees need to reapply and are qualified, they should be given extra consideration, based on their years of service.
Head Start in Toledo is in limbo, and that is bad for children who need help. Head Start is as much about providing health care and developing socialization skills in young children as it is about providing formal education. A major, stable, Toledo institution needs to step up and become a guardian of this vital program. If not TPS, the University of Toledo might seem a logical and reassuring candidate.