Head Start, a preschool program for low-income kids has been a spectacular success, not for kids, but for teachers and teachers' unions.
Please consider Miami-Dade County seeks to unload Head Start program, salaries
For more than four decades, Miami-Dade County officials have managed Head Start, the storied preschool program for children from low-income families. But the county now wants out — and “generous” salaries are partly to blame.
On average, Miami-Dade paid its Head Start teachers $76,860 in salary and fringe benefits in 2011, county records show. That’s about 90 percent higher than the second highest-paying Head Start provider in the county, Catholic Charities, which paid its teachers an average of $40,418 in salary and benefits.
On the administrative side, 17 county Head Start staffers made more than $100,000 in salary and benefits.
Last week, the county submitted paperwork to offload much of the Head Start program to three local agencies: the Miami-Dade school system, Easter Seals of South Florida and the YWCA of Greater Miami-Dade.
But the plan has been met with resistance from some parents and politicians, who say the shake-up would hurt the current Head Start staffers.
About 400 county employees would face the prospect of either losing their jobs or accepting substantial pay cuts if the new agencies hire them.
“You’re talking about great people who worked with kids for their entire lives with the county and now we’re saying, ‘We can do it cheaper,’?” said Evelio Torres, president and CEO of Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe. “You’re talking about people who are trying to pay their mortgages and support a family.”
Head Start was created in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society campaign. The program provides free, full-day preschool and social services for low-income children.
Head Start has been a consistent money-loser for the county, in part because Miami-Dade pays its Head Start employees much higher salaries and better benefits than any other local providers, records show.
Last year, the average Head Start teacher on the county payroll made more than triple the $19,441 in salary and benefits given to Head Start teachers at Paradise Christian, Miami-Dade’s lowest-paying Head Start provider.
The county’s highest paid Head Start employee was director Jane McQueen, who received $188,624 in salary and benefits.