The problem with the Head Start program is that it's always been an exclusive, good-ole-boy club where only poor and disenfranchised kids can matriculate. The doors are flung wide open to ragamuffins, only to be slammed shut in the faces of eager children whose parents can afford to buy them shoes.
But a new report by the Government Accountability Office shows that some Head Start faculty members in Texas and five other states fudged applications to allow kids who would actually be considered "over-income," and thus ineligible.
"This leaves Head Start at risk that over-income children may be enrolled while legitimate under-income children are put on wait lists," the report states.
According to the report, "approximately 4,260" kids are enrolled in 36 Head Start centers in Texas. Nearly 1,200 are on a waiting list. Unfortunately, the report doesn't identify which city or cities investigators targeted.
The report is based on results from undercover investigators who tried to register 15 "fictitious" kids in various Head Start centers. In Texas, "a Head Start associate disregarded over $20,000 worth of income in order to qualify the family as under-income....With respect to the income documentation, the associate stated 'we see this, but we don't see this,' explaining that if both parents' incomes were counted, the family would be over-income and on a wait list."
According to the report, "our bogus applicant was assured that the government would never come back to verify the income."
There's also the case of a Head Start representative overlooking "$11,700 in nonagricultural work in order to qualify the family of three...for migrant Head Start services." With that portion of the family's salary, they would be 130 percent over the poverty guideline.
Unbelievably, these fake kids could have taken spots that are meant for families like the single mother raising two children who investigators interviewed. The woman "earns $1,025 month -- $6,000 a year below the poverty level. The mother works nights and sleeps only a few hours a day as a result of not having child care for her son during the day."
Frankly, we don't see what the problem is. All these Head Start people were trying to do was give people who don't live in poverty a chance. Between food stamps and luxurious Section 8 housing, poor people get all the good stuff. Why not let someone else have a chance for a change?
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.