Navajo Head Start regains some funds

The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.05.2006
WINDOW ROCK Navajo Nation leaders received word Friday that the federal government has partially lifted its suspension of funding for the tribe's troubled Head Start program.
The Navajo Nation can now spend more than $4 million in federal funds for management and administration of the program. That includes rehiring staff members who have cleared background checks and paying for travel, office supplies, maintenance and utilities for 71 centers and 22 home-based programs.
While the funding is only a fraction of the program's $29 million budget, a spokesman for Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said it will allow employees to do the work necessary for the program to begin operating again.
Navajo officials plan to open the Head Start centers in October, spokesman George Hardeen said late Friday.
Funding for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs was suspended in May by the federal Administration for Children and Families. The agency said the tribe failed to perform background checks and that an investigation turned up dozens of employees with criminal records.
The suspension was lifted that same month for Early Head Start.
In a nine-page letter to Shirley, federal Head Start Bureau director Channell Wilkins said the Navajo Nation has corrected three of five deficiencies. The tribe must still improve shared governance and monitoring of the program.
The tribe conducted background checks for most Head Start employees, and nearly 600 have been cleared for work