Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) joined the National Head Start Association, the National Education Association and Democrats in the House in opposing H.R. 2123, the Head Start Reauthorization bill because of last minute inserted language. A provision was added to the bill to allow faith-based-sponsored Head Start programs to use federal taxpayer dollars to discriminate against teachers and other employees solely because of their religion.
Before this provision was attached, the Head Start Reauthorization was a bipartisan bill which would have allowed positive changes to the Head Start program. The bill was passed unanimously by the Education and Workforce Committee this past May. But today, the House Republicans brought to the floor of the House a highly controversial, divisive religious discrimination amendment, which has forced Higgins, the Head Start Association and Democrats in Congress to oppose the bill.
“I cannot in good conscience support a bill which includes this religious discrimination provision,” said Higgins. “Shame on the Republicans in Congress for destroying a bipartisan bill, which would have helped thousands of Head Start kids and their parents, and turning it into a conduit for religious discrimination. Head Start historically protects people of all religions, but this provision, which allows faith based-sponsored Head Start programs to use federal taxpayer dollars to discriminate against qualified teachers and other employees solely because of their religion or personal religious views, undermines how Head Start has functioned for over 30 years.”
The provision of the Head Start Act prohibiting discrimination in hiring has existed since 1972. That provision has never prohibited faith-based organizations from receiving Head Start funds. All the provision does is assure that government funds will not be used to support religious discrimination. This long-standing anti-discrimination provision has not put a burden on any religious organization. In fact, the Education and the Workforce Committee has received no testimony from any faith-based organizations that this amendment is needed in order for them to continue to participate or to expand their participation in Head Start.