Future of Head Start program could cost taxpayers - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Future of Head Start program could cost taxpayers

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(WMC-TV) - Shelby County Commission voted unanimously for the county school system to take over the Head Start program for at-risk children. But what will this mean for parents and taxpayers?

Commissioners say parents should be elated. But taxpayers could fork out funds if the program falls into the wrong hands.

"The Head Start resolution came out of an outcry in the community," said Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks, who said word was circulating that a private entity was mobilizing to take over Head Start. "We really don't need to privatize our educational system."

And on the heels of a lukewarm review, Brooks proposed county schools take Head Start out of county government hands, which would inject a $23 million grant into the school system.

In addition to being a Shelby County commissioner, Melvin Burgess is also the county school auditor.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions before we take this task on," said Burgess, who says the property entity must take over or taxpayers will pay.

"With any grant, you've still got to put money up and there still could be some cost overrun," he said.

Burgess says the school system is a better fit because a government agency running a school program causes a disconnect.

"Literacy is a problem K-3," said Burgess. "So we want to make sure we get those kids and make sure these kids can reach when they go through kindergarten through third grade."

Commissioner Terry Roland also supported the move because he says under county government, more money goes to employee benefits.

"It's going to the people that are working there so you're not reaching as many kids," said Roland.

Commissioner Mike Ritz says parents should be confident that the program will continue.

"I don't think we'll have a lack of applicants," he added.

The resolution allows schools to partner with a community organization. The superintendent told the school board last week he is interested in exploring the idea. But he will have to act fast. The application deadline is October 22.

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