What’s Going on with Head Start?

What’s going on with Head Start?

All of the sudden, after 40 years, and in the very middle of the federal budget year, the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council (HCEOC) is relinquishing its administration of the Head Start program on Hawaii Island.

Just like that.

The reason given is that the HCEOC wants to focus on its core missions of “job creation and employment training” and something called, “more-specialized child-development services.”

Oh. Okay. If you put it that way. Island residents with children who rely on these health services will just hope that this move works out.

End of story, right?

And the 85 island residents who work at Head Start will just wait and let the federal government sort it out…

The feds always do what’s best for us, right?

George Yokoyama, Executive Director of the HCEOC, has stated, “It’s about time to give it to a specialized child-development agency,” and, “Their (services are) more professional than ours.”

That’s it, in a nutshell–according to Yokoyama. Nothing more to it.

Okay then. Let’s just move to a new topic..

..What? ..The 85 employees?

Um, no worries..Yokoyama says, “Most employees there with experience will be selected for the continuation of this program..” “Most of them will be retained to continue.”

Oh, and other folks at HCEOC like Harold Bugado, the chairman of the HCEOC’s Board of Directors? ..Uh, just no comment for now. He has to “get his thoughts together.”

Diana Kahler, the former deputy director of the Head Start program? ..Um, she just..well..put her down as “no comment” too. Kahler does say, “We’ve been directed to refer all calls to Harold Bugado, the board chairman”.

All righty. We’ll just wait for Mr. Bugado to set us straight on what’s going down with Head Start..

We’re only talking about a very significant program that attempts to deal with poverty and the health of the community at a time of staring into an economic abyss..

You folks just take your time..

The stakes?–just nutrition, violence, child-development. Small kine, no?

“Starting April 2 (the midpoint of the federal budget year), the Denver-based Community Development Institute (CDI) Head Start will assume local Head Start operations.” –Kenneth Wolfe, Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

Aside from above announcement, practically no one connected with this taxpayer-funded, critical public health program has uttered a word. That’s not right. There is something called transparency that has been rightly reaffirmed by President Obama as a pillar of functional democratic government. Also, we’re talking here about the federal government and its purse-strings: money: our money.

And who stands to suffer from U.S. government money allocation shenanigans? Taxpaying citizens expected to finance multi-million dollar bonuses to corrupt bankers? —That would be pretty bad.

This hidden end-run of public monies places kids and their families at the mercy of government bureaucrats–I don’t find that reassuring.

Okay. okay. What do I, smartypants, think is going on?

To begin with, this secrecy has already done a disservice to our community. This is about our community and we should be informed of what is happening–not intentionally denied information. How arrogant is it for OUR government to figure that this change-up should happen without our participation?

Here’s my guess about what’s going on here:

I think there is a push to wrangle the local community kuleana(responsibility) away from Head Start, for various reasons, but ultimately centralized economic ones. I’d like to be proven wrong, but I have a hunch that a sizable portion of the 85 people who are expected to attend a “job fair” to plead for their jobs will not be rehired. Check out the rap about “qualifications and experience.” To people involved in this mendacious funneling of tax money, these two terms, “experience and qualifications” can be twisted to mean: behaving in ways economically useful to centralized institutions. Many employees of Head Start have actually been parents of the children. Guaranteed they have plenty of experience–however I’ll bet that this is disregarded by CDI. There is a push to keep “educators” and their institutions in business by insisting that people consume qualification programs, or else: lose their job.

While money coming down the pike (actually our money) from the federal government isn’t in itself a bad thing, what IS a bad thing is that this centralized distribution of resources can often harmfully impact our local community.

How so?

Well, the federal government is concerned with its political agenda. In this case, and in other matters of education, it often means propping up institutions that are far away, and not necessarily concerned with local significant issues: food and energy independence, health, and education (candidate Obama’s rhetoric notwithstanding). Sustainability for Hawaii entails a greater degree of local self-reliance–this involves more self-determination for Hawaii — Washington D.C. and its lobbyists don’t support this perspective.

You could say, “It’s the global economy, stupid!”

However, as we endure the corruption of institutions — resistant to reform due to their size and nature — we see that what is key to community health is local participation, shorn of exploitive motives. So-called nonprofit organizations that lobby an agenda of more college degree consumption for Head Start teachers are indeed exploitive–they force experienced, capable (albeit non-degreed) preschool teachers out, so as to conduct their professional racket; often resulting in replacement-staff of more-schooled, less-competent bureaucrats: great for technocrats and lawyers–not so good for community health.

When something like this goes on, try check and see if: distant private companies, preschool degree-peddling, or other “professional” requirements emerge.

I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that these things play a part in this current covered-up move concerning Head Start.

Unfortunately, the cards are stacked way against us and our 3-5 year old kids.

And not saying a thing would seem to be pretty lame public health policy.

*Update: A fellow name Curtis Narimatsu, who often writes commentary on another local blog and who is seemingly familiar with a lot of the workings of local politics in general and George Yokoyama in particular, weighed-in on the discussion above:

As to commentators Darren’s/Anon’s queries about Head Start [“HS”], 4 things result–

1) Morale was low among staff because the HS director didn’t have the personality/oomph to appreciate them;

2) Fed Health/Human Services [preschoolers] audits of HS clamped down on discretionary/wiggle room spending here;

3) Fed HHS was gonna pull/stop funding immediately based on failure to account/perform [administrative];

4) our HCEOC bd. decided that to amp up to Fed standards was a lost cause. Point is that in thinking thru home rule vs. standard industry practices, home rule didn’t measure up to tough oversight authority. Of course, command authority points to George Yokoyama as the culprit, in that the HCEOC bd. looks to George for wisdom, & in that the HCEOC bd. picked the HS head.

So there you go. I don’t know if Mr. Narimatsu covered all the reasons for this change-up but it is a whole lot more scoops than anyone else was willing to articulate. While I tend to suspect a picture that supports some of my own musings (are you surprised?), nonetheless, mahalo to Curtis for offering up some clues to the mystery of Head Start.

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