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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

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Kline Statement on GAO’s Undercover Investigation Revealing Fraud and Abuse in Head Start Programs

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee’s senior Republican member, issued the following statement today after an undercover Government Accountability Office investigation revealed fraud and abuse at selected Head Start centers.

“Falsifying income levels and collecting taxpayer funds based on children who were never actually enrolled undermines the most basic purpose of the Head Start program, which is to provide early childhood services for vulnerable children and families. This program will consume more than $9 billion in taxpayer funds this year with the goal of closing readiness gaps and giving low-income children a head start before enrolling in school. Without assurances these funds are reaching the children they are intended to serve, the credibility of the program is, unfortunately, severely undermined.

“GAO’s finding of fraudulent practices at half the centers investigated raises serious questions about the pervasiveness of these practices. I applaud the GAO’s efforts to bring this information to light, and I welcome the broader inquiry by the Inspector General to determine the larger program vulnerabilities.”

NOTE: GAO’s testimony, delivered before the Education and Labor Committee this afternoon, is available online here. Previous GAO investigations have uncovered financial abuse and mismanagement among Head Start grantees, diverting federal resources from the low-income children and families the program is intended to serve.

Responding to initial reports of the GAO’s investigation, Rep. Kline wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ independent Inspector General earlier this month seeking an immediate investigation into the program’s eligibility, enrollment, and attendance verification processes to assess their vulnerability to fraud and abuse. The IG’s office is engaged in the GAO’s narrow review of selected grantees and a larger assessment of Head Start program integrity, and has announced plans to conduct an investigation as Rep. Kline requested. The correspondence is available online here.

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