Wednesday, Jun 29, 2016
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Education

U.S. to explain decision on Head Start next week

EOPA, TPS still unsure why feds rejected bids

Head-Start-Robert-Jordan

Robert Jordan, right, interim chief executive officer for the planning association, says he was surprise by the federal process and how no bids were accepted for Head Start.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officially will inform applicants about the success of their bids for Head Start grants, possibly answering why neither of the two known applicants for the grant in Lucas County won.

The department announced Wednesday the preliminary bid winners for 160 Head Start grants, but said nobody was selected for the one in Lucas County.

By Friday, neither Toledo Public Schools or the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo had even received direct word from HHS, leaving officials confused about how the department made its decision.

The $13 million grant to run the early childhood education program in Lucas County — currently held by the planning association — was up for open competition for the first time. But HHS announced Wednesday that none of the Head Start applications in Lucas County met its high standards, and the grant will go out for bid again this spring.

That’s left officials at both TPS and the planning association scratching their heads. Despite repeated calls and emails, no one could tell TPS why its bid failed.

“I have to believe that there’s something irregular here,” TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko said.

Robert Jordan, interim chief executive officer for the planning association, was also still waiting for a call. “The whole process is surprising,” Mr. Jordan said.

Ted Froats, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families in HHS, said some of those questions will be answered next week. Official notices to all Head Start grant applicants will include feedback from a panel that reviewed and scored the applications, he said. Mr. Froats also said that even though Lucas County had no successful applicants, any organization that bid for the grant is eligible to reapply.

The Lucas County grant is part of a legal battle involving several Head Start providers and HHS.

In December, 2011, the planning association learned it was among more than 100 Head Start grantees that did not meet “quality thresholds,” and would have to compete for the first time to retain the program. That action was the result of a 2007 law forcing low-performing grantees to compete for funding.

Several state associations that represent community action agencies — including the planning association — sued the department last year over its decision. The associations lost but appealed.

Oral arguments were held Friday in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

HHS officials have denied the appeal played any role in its decision not to award a grant in Lucas County.

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