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McCain Tells NAACP He Loves Head Start, But Voted Differently

OMAHA, Neb. — Following his speech at the NAACP national convention in Cincinnati, Sen. John McCain announced he would take some questions from the audience. The presumptive Republican nominee told a woman who identified herself as a recent flood victim that he would not put political appointees in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — a jab at the Bush administration’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina. He said that “attacks on America by natural calamities are as bad or worse” than those by terrorists.

When asked about judicial appointments, he restated his vow to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who will strictly interpret the Constitution. When a white guy started to ask a question, he was cut off in favor of an African-American woman. It was at this point that the Q & A session got a little contentious.

The woman, who identified as a Head Start teacher making $17,000 per year, demanded to know what McCain would do to increase funding for Head Start programs, which provide pre-Kindergarten, as well as health and nutrition education to low-income children. McCain offered his support, but stressed that the program needs oversight:

“I obviously support Head Start programs. I would be glad to fully fund those programs, but there has to be monitoring, there has to be a measurable success and there has to be a return on taxpayer dollars, that these programs actually are beneficial. We need to review them from time to time, just to see how we could do a better job. There’s no reason why you should resent any scrutiny, any oversight and any evaluation. I’ll support the full funding, if you’ll agree to that. How’s that?”

As for the oversight, the Department of Health and Human Services performed a study of the program in 2005. The study found "positive impacts for both 3-and 4-year-old children on several measures across four of the six cognitive constructs, including pre-reading, pre-writing, vocabulary and parent reports of children’s literacy skills. It also found:

For 3-year-olds, there are small to moderate statistically significant impacts in both constructs, higher parent reports of children’s access to health care and reportedly better health status for children enrolled in Head Start.

For children who entered the program as 4-year-olds, there are moderate statistically significant impacts on access to health care, but no significant impacts for health status.

Of course, the Obama campaign was quick to point out, McCain doesn’t have the strongest record when it comes to funding Head Start. The Arizona senator did not vote on the 2007 Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act, which reauthorized the program for five years and increased its budget from $7.35 billion to $8 billion between 2008 and 2010. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 95-0. McCain voted against an increase in funding for Head Start in 2003 and 1997

So McCain talked a pretty good game on Head Start in front of the NAACP, but his recent record tells a different story.

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