NAACP - Supported Head Start Reauthorization Threatened by Provision to Eliminate Civil Rights Protections

Urge House Members to oppose Motion to recommit


Since its inception more than 40 years ago, the Head Start program has protected employees and volunteers from employment discrimination based on religion in federally-funded positions in Head Start programs.  Due in part to this provision the Head Start program has flourished, and many Head Start programs today are run by churches, temples, mosques and other houses of worship.

The NAACP strongly supports the Head Start program and has consistently advocated for its expansion to help all eligible American children.  Head Start remains a cornerstone in this country's efforts to combat poverty and provide all its citizens with the opportunity to thrive.  Because Head Start has proven to be so successful in helping millions of American children and families, the NAACP strongly supports H.R. 1429, the Improving Head Start Act of 2007, which reauthorizes the program and makes some much-needed improvements, including improving teacher and classroom quality; boosting coordination between Head Start and state and local early childhood programs; increasing the program's accountability; and expanding access to the program.  The NAACP was pleased to see H.R. 1429 pass out of the House Education and Labor Committee by a strong bi-partisan vote of 42 -1.

One amendment that was rejected during committee consideration would have allowed religious organizations participating in Head Start to discriminate in hiring decisions based on religion (it was known as the "Charitable Choice" amendment).  If it had been accepted, it would mean that thousands of Head Start employees and volunteers, whose positions are paid for by American taxpayers, would be at risk of losing their jobs based solely on their religious preference.  The NAACP ardently opposed this amendment, as it opens the door to blatant discrimination using federal dollars and because it is unnecessary; many houses of worship already participate in the Head Start program under the existing rules without problems.  We were thus extremely pleased to see the amendment defeated.  The bill will now be considered by the full House of Representatives (possibly as soon as the week of April 23) without the offending language.

After consideration of amendments to the bill, but just prior to final passage, Congressman John Boehner (OH) is expected to offer a "Motion to Recommit," which would send the bill back to the committee and require the inclusion of the Charitable Choice religious discrimination provision which would allow providers to circumvent traditional civil rights protections.  The NAACP is calling on all members and friends to contact their representatives and urge them to support the underlying bill and to oppose the "Motion to Recommit."