Ashley Fowlkes, center, helps her children Krystal Morris, 3, left, and Myanna Morris, 4, right, with crafts after registering them for Head Start at the J.B. Simmons Community Center in May.
A new round of competition for the Lucas County Head Start program begins, as the federal government posted a grant solicitation this week.
The local Head Start grant was among a batch posted Monday and Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For decades, the federally funded program was administered locally by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo.
The local $13 million grant was one of dozens that HHS initially put up for competition in 2011, but none of the bids, including those from EOPA and Toledo Public Schools, was selected.
After that decision, HHS announced a re-competition would commence, and the recent grant opportunity announcement is the first step for that competition. Applicants have until Oct. 21 to submit their bids.
The Rev. Donald Perryman, EOPA’s board chairman, said the board is evaluating its options. That could include an individual bid, collaborating with other agencies, or EOPA joining another bid.
“We will be involved in some way or form,” he said.
This grant opportunity is less than the previous one, as Head Start programs were cut nationally as part of the federal budget sequester. The award ceiling for the first competition was about $12.9 million, while the re-competition is for about $12.2 million.
Mr. Perryman said any cuts to programs are difficult, but especially to ones that help vulnerable children and families.
During the bid process, Head Start will be locally administered on an interim basis by a Colorado-based firm. The federal government had denied an EOPA request to continue administering Head Start during the re-bid, and the Community Development Institute took over July 1.
Romules Durant, an assistant superintendent who will take over as Toledo Public Schools’ superintendent Aug. 1, did not respond to a request for comment, but district officials have indicated they plan to rebid for the grant. The Toledo Board of Education passed a resolution in April authorizing the superintendent to submit a new bid.
A group of local leaders, including Mayor Mike Bell, University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, and Keith Burwell, the Toledo Community Foundation’s executive director, has pushed for a single combined local bid for Head Start as the best way to bring the program back under local control.