How one state failed on Head Start

Regarding your June 16 editorial "Fresh start for Head Start" and your June 17 article "Head Start's cloudy future": President Bush's proposal for Head Start is being debated by a House committee. The "state demo" - where this federally funded program is given to eligible states - foretells the end of Head Start. I believe Ohio will jump at the chance to take the $238 million program with virtually no strings attached, and other eligible states will follow suit.

During the economic boom of the 1990s, Ohio led states in funding its own Head Start programs. In 2000, almost 18,000 children were served, with an annual budget of $98 million. As the economy tanked, so did Ohio's commitment to Head Start. To meet lower state revenues, the administration and legislature approved a budget showing their value of Head Start. Funding came primarily from rainy-day welfare funds, and enrollment was cut. Child eligibility was changed. Programs were not allowed to provide health and dental services and could no longer serve foster children. The restrictions were too rigid, and many providers were unable to achieve full enrollment, resulting in additional cuts.

Early 2003 saw groups writing legislators, pleading to have Head Start included in the state's permanent budget. Legislators and administrators worked hard, but when faced with the state fiscal crisis, Head Start and poor children clearly were no longer a priority. The state is proposing to cut the program 36 percent more, so gambling on Ohio to protect federal Head Start is not a good bet.

The change in the state legislature is sad. Three years ago, politicians spoke endlessly of the amazing research on brain development from birth through age 5 - the focal years of Head Start. I have not heard Ohio politicians mention it recently.

Integrating the federal Head Start funding into Ohio's budget will ensure that developmental opportunities are lost. Ohio's children will have much less than a head start when economic times are tough.
David F. Marker
Eaton, OhioChief financial officer for a Head Start program

You're flying blind if you divorce online

Regarding your article "Divorce online: faster, cheaper, and lawyer-free": It should be noted that these services are not new, but have moved online to improve marketing impact and convenience. These services have serious problems. They are totally unregulated and often fraudulent. Unless people are willing to spend the money and then have the paperwork checked for validity by a knowledgeable attorney, they are flying blind. Programs can't be designed to meet the needs of all parties, and I have never found a disclaimer. So there is no way to be sure that all one's unique issues have been handled properly. Finally, these products result in groups of people seeking assistance at courthouses ill equipped (in most states) to deal with their needs.
Gene Beaty, attorney

College cost hiked by failure of K-12

Regarding your June 17 article "Backlash brews over rising cost of college": One of the reasons for the rising cost of college tuition is the proliferation of remedial courses and the emphasis on college access for underprepared students. This takes the burden of preparation for college off the K-12 system, placing it instead on the college system.

Perhaps reinstituting admissions standards and entrance exams would help to cut the cost of college and focus the attention on the failure of the K-12 system. If prospective college students had to pass exams to enter college, there might be parental pressure to improve the "education" that such students receive in the public school system.
Pegi Ficken
Wilson, Wis.

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