Congress is working on improving education in America again. Beware!

A House committee just approved a bill to modify the Head Start program (via: Christian Science Monitor) by turning management of the program over to the states (starting with 8 "pilots"). The Head Start program was created as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960’s to help almost one million kids from high poverty areas get ready to attend kindergarten. As with many educational programs, you can find studies that support both advocates and opponents.

I don’t know enough about the Head Start program and this bill to create an informed opinion about whether the proposed changes are good or bad. However, there was one thing in this article that makes me suspicious:

Further adding to the furor over the Bush administration’s recommendations on Head Start was a May 8 letter from a Health and Human Services official to all Head Start centers warning the centers against attempting to stir up resistance to the proposed changes. The letter suggests possible criminal or civil penalties if those involved tried to lobby against the bill. [Evidently, the gag order applies to Head Start volunteers as well.]

The New York Times coverage of the bill (free registration required) has a couple of other notes that also bother me:

Democratic committee members said they were not given copies of the legislation until just before a meeting began on Wednesday morning. A note at the bottom of each page showed that the final version had been printed at 3 that morning.

But while Ms. Wilkins praised some elements of the bill, including a provision requiring half of all Head Start teachers to have four-year college degrees by 2008, she criticized committee members for voting down an amendment to pay teachers competitive salaries.

So, the President is trying to stifle debate on his proposals, the House "leadership" is pushing through legislation so that opponents (and even their own members) don’t have time to understand the provisions, and Congress doesn’t want to pay for the laws they pass. Some things haven’t changed in 40 years.