Early Childhood

Head Start workers protest the loss of 350 jobs serving low income children

Netra Weathery, the union representative for the protesting workers, showed Shelby County Schools' plan to outsource Head Start services to 2,200 children.

At least 20 Shelby County Head Start workers protested the loss of as many as 350 jobs outside the Shelby County Schools monthly board meeting Tuesday night. The workers have been given notices that their jobs with the county end this month and they say that SCS has made no assurances that they will be hired back if it takes over the Head Start contract on July 1.
Head Start is a federal program for children below the poverty line that includes preschool as well as nutritional and health services.
“Some of the employees have been with Head Start for forty years or more,” said Netra Weatherby, the union spokesperson for the protesting workers last night.
As a result of the job losses, the protesters say SCS may not have enough workers to avoid a disruption to the educational and health services Head Start programs offer to more than 5,000 predominantly low-income children in Shelby County. The workers have heard that they may not be hired back because of the the high salaries and pension costs of experienced workers, says Weatherby, who has more than 20 years of experience.
An SCS spokesman wrote in an email that they won’t know whether the district has been awarded the Head Start contract, or whether it will be awarded to the other applicant, Porter-Leath, until July 1. But the district put out a Request For Prosposal on June 13 to outsource Head Start services for 2,200 of the 4,262 children that it proposed to serve in its federal Head Start application.  Weatherby says that the numbers in the RFP don’t add up and will lead to a reduction in the number of children being served.
“Head Start is the best program that you can have,” Weatherby said. “Not only do we provide educational services, we’re a social service. We deal with the whole family. Some of the parents who come in don’t know how to advocate for themselves and their children. We teach them all that.”

Early investment

Foundations put $50 million behind effort to improve lives of young Detroit children

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The heads of the Kresge and W.K. Kellogg foundations, Rip Rapson and La June Montgomery announce a $50 million investment to support the new Hope Starts Here framework.

The two major foundations behind the creation of a ten-year plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s youngest children are putting up $50 million to help put the plan into action.

As they unveiled the new Hope Starts Here framework Friday morning, the Kellogg and Kresge foundations announced they would each spend $25 million in the next few years to improve the health and education of children aged birth to 8 in the city.

The money will go toward upgrading early childhood education centers, including a new Kresge-funded comprehensive child care center that the foundation says it hopes to break ground on next year at a location that has not yet been identified.

Other foundation dollars will go toward a just-launched centralized data system that will keep track of a range of statistics on the health and welfare of young children, and more training and support for early childhood educators.

The announcement at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History drew dozens of parents, educators and community leaders. Among them was Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti who said one of the major impediments to improving conditions for young children has been divisions between the various government and nonprofit entities that run schools, daycares and health facilities for young kids.

Vitti said the district would do its part to “to break down the walls of territorialism that has prevented this work from happening” in the past.

Watch the video of of the announcement here.

Detroit's future

In a city where 60 percent of young children live in poverty, a ten-year plan aims to improve conditions for kids

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat

A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens.

The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit:

  • More than 60% of Detroit’s children 0-5 live in poverty — more than in any of the country’s 50 largest cities;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too early, compared to nine percent nationally;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too small, compared to eight percent nationally;
  • Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country;
  • Nearly 30,000 of eligible young Detroiters have no access to high-quality early learning or child care options.
  • That translates to learning problems later on, including the 86.5% of Detroit third graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

Hope Starts Here spells out a plan to change that. While it doesn’t identify specific new funding sources or propose a dramatic restructuring of current programs, the effort led by the Kresge Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, names six “imperatives” to improving children’s lives.

Among them: Promoting the health, development and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs and improving coordination between organizations that work with young kids. The framework calls for more funding to support these efforts through the combined investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and corporations.

Read the full framework here: