Head Start: Additional Information on Implementation of Transportation Regulations

GAO-07-194R Published: Nov 17, 2006. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 2006.
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Highlights

The Head Start program, administered by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides grants to local organizations to offer comprehensive early childhood services to approximately 900,000 poor children, ages 5 years or younger. While transportation is not a required service, in order to make Head Start more widely available to very poor children, over 70 percent of Head Start grantees and delegates provide transportation to at least some of the children they enroll. To address concerns about transporting children safely, the 1992 Head Start Improvement Act directed the Office of Head Start (OHS) to develop transportation regulations to ensure the safety and effectiveness of transportation services made available to children by Head Start grantees and delegates. In 2001, citing safety concerns related to vehicles as well as the variation in states' standards for pupil transport, Head Start issued regulations governing transportation services. Among other things, the regulations mandated that grantees and delegates use school buses or similar alternative vehicles and that children be placed in restraints and attended by bus monitors. In commenting on the 2001 regulations, grantees and delegates expressed concerns about potential unintended effects on Head Start programs of implementing these requirements, such as reducing the availability of transportation and thereby encouraging enrollees to use less safe modes of traveling to and from Head Start. GAO was asked to examine these concerns and in July 2006 issued a report, Head Start: Progress and Challenges in Implementing Transportation Regulations (GAO-06-767R), which found in part that many grantees and delegates had implemented the Head Start transportation regulations with some experiencing adverse program and budgetary effects in doing so. Congress subsequently asked us to provide additional analysis of some information that we obtained through our 2006 study. Specifically, Congress us to 1) compare the characteristics of surveyed grantees and delegates that indicated they were facing challenges with implementing the regulations to those of grantees and delegates that did not, and 2) provide information on the numbers of children transported by grantees and delegates that submitted requests to OHS in 2006 for more time to implement the monitor and restraint provisions.

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