HHS has issued a Fact Sheet
summarizing the major provisions of the final Performance Standards. The final rule reorganizes the Performance Standards, which are currently contained in eleven different sections, into five new parts:
- Part 1301 – Program Governance
- Part 1302 – Program Operations
- Part 1303 – Financial and Administrative Requirements
- Part 1304 – Federal Administrative Procedures; and
- Part 1305 – Definitions
One of the most significant changes proposed in the NPRM was for Head Start and Early Head Start grantees to increase the duration of their center-based programs to provide full-day, full-year classes. The NPRM proposed requiring all Head Start center-based programs to operate for at least 6 hours per day and 180 days per year (an increase from the current requirement of at least 3.5 hours per day and 128 days per year). The final Performance Standards, however, require programs to offer a minimum of 1,020 annual hours of planned class
operations. This is equivalent to planned class operations of 6 hours per day and 170 days per year, though programs have the freedom to design their class schedules in any way that meets the 1,020 annual hours’ requirement. Further, the effective date of this requirement will be phased in over five years (rather than the proposed two years in the NPRM), with center-based Head Start programs required to provide full-day, full-year services for 50 percent of their slots by August 1, 2019, and for all of their slots by August 1, 2021. Until then, programs must provide, at a minimum, planned class operations for at least 160 days per year (if it operates for 5 days per week) or at least 128 days per year (if it operates for 4 days per week).
For Early Head Start, the NPRM proposed requiring all Early Head Start center-based programs to
operate for at least 6 hours per day and 230 days per year (which would codify, but not alter, the current HHS interpretation of the Head Start Act). The final Performance Standards require programs to offer 1,380 annual hours of planned operations, which is equivalent to 6 hours per day and 230 days per year. Center-based Early Head Start programs will have two years (instead of the proposed 12 months in the NPRM) to implement this increase in service duration, which will be effective on August 1, 2018.
The final rule retains the proposal in the NPRM to allow Head Start and Early Head Start programs to request and obtain a waiver to operate a locally-designed program option variation. Further, in response to comments HHS received expressing concerns about cuts to Head Start program slots if adequate funds are not available to
support full-day, full-year programs, the final Performance Standards give the HHS Secretary the flexibility to reduce the required percentage of funded enrollment slots for which grantees must offer 1,020 annual hours of planned class operations to the percentage the HHS Secretary estimates available appropriations can support. HHS estimates that the cost of the Head Start center-based duration requirement, if fully implemented, will be $1.13 billion. Congress has appropriated $294 million in FY2016 to increase the duration of Head Start and Early Head Start services, and President Obama’s FY2017 budget requests additional funding to further expand full-day, full-year programs. Collectively, these funds would enable Head Start and Early Head Start center-based programs to meet their targets for 2019 in the final rule. Congress would need to appropriate additional funds to support
the full implementation (i.e., the targets for 2021) of the Head Start center-based service duration requirement.