Obama Needs to Demand an Audit on Miami-Dade's Wasted Head Start Money

In January, as part of President Obama's $15 billion plan to expand Head Start, Miami-Dade was awarded $290 million in federal funds to "provide opportunities for low-income children and their families."

Where is the county stashing the money?

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Eight months later, county officials haven't provided any details about these "opportunities." We don't know how the $290 million is being spent or if poor kids will benefit.

County government has a track record of squandering federal funds meant for Miami-Dade's neediest residents. In 2007, for example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development took over the county's affordable-housing agency after widespread mismanagement and corruption was uncovered. Nearly $35 million in federal funds meant to redevelop the Scott housing projects in Liberty City had disappeared.

That's not all. Earlier this year, county commissioners approved a $10 million settlement to repay federal funds that had been fraudulently used by Miami-Dade's transit agency.

The Head Start programs prepare children under the age of 5 for school by bolstering their language and literacy skills as well as their social and emotional development. Kids also receive free medical, dental, and mental health screenings, along with healthful meals. They also get snacks and opportunities to play indoors and outdoors in safe settings.

Roughly 7,000 families receive Head Start services in Miami-Dade, where nearly a third of preschoolers live in poverty, according to the recent report "Income & Poverty in Miami-Dade County: 2013."

But the programs have recently been criticized as being ineffective. A July report by the Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse states, "Head Start was found to have potentially positive effects on general reading achievement and no discernible effects on mathematics achievement and social-emotional development for 3- and 4-year-old children." That's because the programs are bring run poorly.

Obama should send federal investigators here to find out what county officials are doing with the $290 million. With that much loot, Miami-Dade should be able to hire the best teachers and buy smartboards and tablets.

Where is the county stashing the money?

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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