Banks bills on Head Start and interstate rest areas give fiscal decisions to states

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks introduced the Head Start Improvement Act, a bill to reform the Head Start early childhood education program, on April 5.

Banks and Rep. Joe Courtney, of Connecticut, jointly introduced a bill on April 6 that would give states the portion of commercializing state-owned rest areas on interstate highways. States would be given discretion on how the new revenue would be used to fund infrastructure projects and highway maintenance.
 
The Head Start legislation would give states increased flexibility in spending the Head Start dollars they receive from the federal government to better meet the specific needs of low-income children. The bill would provide Head Start block grants directly to eligible grantees, which include states, territories and federally recognized Indian tribes.

The Banks bill is a companion to legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The Head Start program was established in 1965 to attempt to alleviate the education gap between low-income children and their peers by providing comprehensive early childhood education services.

The program also provides medical and nutritional services while engaging parents in their child’s education. In fiscal year 2015, Head Start had nearly one million enrollees and received $8.6 billion in federal funding.

A recent long-term study of the Head Start program by the Department of Health and Human Services tracked 5,000 3 and 4-year old children from pre-K to third grade and found no improvement in language skills, literacy, math or overall school performance by the time enrollees entered third grade.

Banks, a Republican from Columbia City, represents Indiana’s third congressional district, which includes Huntington County.