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News ::
04 Aug 2003
A Dickens novel for 2003


By Greg Butterfield
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug. 7, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper

A Dickens novel for 2003


By Greg Butterfield

It sounds like a Charles Dickens novel: wealthy (mostly) men stealing
education, medical care, and food from impoverished preschoolers.

But it's not fiction. It's the Bush administration's plan for Head

Head Start is a modest but popular program won by the civil rights
movement in 1965. Head Start centers provide tutoring, parenting advice, checkups and dental care for thousands of children of poor and working-class families.

Head Start also provides food for hungry kids and an alternative to
costly daycare for many low-wage families.

Bush's plan calls for ending federal standards for Head Start and
allowing states to use the money as they wish. At the same time, Head
Start teachers would be required to get more education. The plan
provides no additional money to help them.

It also encourages the privatization of Head Start through religious
institutions, and allows them to discriminate in hiring staff--for
example, against people who hold other beliefs or against lesbians and

On July 25, a modified version of the Bush plan passed in the House of
Representatives by 217-216. Under this legislation, eight states would
be allowed to "bid" for the privilege of taking over Head Start for the next five years.

Now it goes for approval to the white millionaires' club called the U.S. Senate.


The plan to give the states power over Head Start is eerily familiar to anyone who watched the dismantling of welfare under the Bush Senior and Clinton administrations.

First a few gung-ho governors are given the go-ahead to privatize the
program. Money is held back from helping the needy so that states can
show they are "spending more wisely."

Workers servicing government programs are given unrealistic goals
without the funds to meet them. This in turn is presented as evidence of the need for privatization.

Democrats present a tepid "opposition" to the Republican plan,
especially with an election year in the wind. But they never seriously
challenge it by mobilizing people to fight for their rights.

In fact, several Democrats have already voiced support for the Bush
plan. Their opposition, they say, is only based on the need for more
funding to train Head Start staff. (Washington Post, July 25)

Richard Gephardt, a leading Democrat in the House and now a presidential candidate, showed his contempt for families who rely on Head Start. Instead of returning to Washington to vote--his "no" could have caused a tie and the bill wouldn't have passed--Gephardt was on a two-day visit to South Carolina, chatting up contributors with deep pockets.

Gephardt later claimed it didn't matter, because the Republicans would
have "persuaded another moderate to support" the bill. (Associated
Press, July 26)

Head Start is a small program by Washington's standards. Its 2003 budget is just $6.7 billion.

In contrast, it is estimated that the Bush administration is spending
over $4 billion PER MONTH to illegally occupy Iraq.

The bombs and bullets killing and maiming Iraqi children are also
exploding across the U.S., endangering the lives and well-being of the
most vulnerable children, especially in communities of color. n

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
on (at) Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) Support the
voice of resistance
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