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Early Education News! 

Two unexpected gifts from the Office of Head Start – The gift of time and flexibility, but what does this mean?

by Andrea Abbott on 02/01/18

Our thoughts on the delay of the Round 6 FOA

The most recent round of recompetition was slated to post on January 17th. However, as of this posting the application has not been released. There are several reasons that an application can be delayed and it happens in almost every round of recompetition at least once. For example, in round six, the new Head Start Program Performance Standards are likely to be incorporated into the new funding opportunity announcement and the grant evaluation criteria. As a result, the Office of Head Start has to train grant reviewers on how to evaluate applicant responses to the new criteria, as well as revise the application instructions. Another cause for a lack of application posting is lack of resources within the Office of Head Start to complete the grant review process. For example, grant reviewers are compensated for reviewing each application and the budget impasse may impact the ability for funds to be released for this task. Regardless, we have been given the gift of time. Use the extra time for the following tasks and you are sure to strengthen your proposal:


1. Gather anecdotal data to justify any program changes you would like to make in your application. For example, if you are proposing to convert slots to EHS survey your program families to see how many families have children eligible for EHS and note in your application the number of families that you will have enrolled immediately upon funding.


2. Update your school readiness plan and progress you have made in meeting family and program outcomes.  


3. Update your grants.gov registration and watch the Workspace Webinar to ensure that you understand the submission process and how to upload your documents into the grants.gov system.


4. Review your policies to address the new program performance standards on expulsion and suspension, ERSEA training, attendance, and other issues as they are certain to show up in the new grant application criteria.


Like many programs, Heartland monitors Round 6 grant forecast every day. However, one little known grant secret is that FOAs are typically released on a Tuesday or Thursday in the Federal Register. So, if you are checking weekly, Tuesday is your best chance of catching it right out of the gate. We will keep you posted!



What about duration? Calling attention to the elephant in the room.

Last week, OHS disseminated a notice that programs would no longer be required to comply with the duration requirement by August, 2019. The Program Instruction indicates that the reason for the change was that OHS prefers to serve more children and families for less time, than to serve fewer children for more time. While this may be true, the desire to serve more children may signal that there is a proposed cut on the horizon for Head Start. Historically, when programs anticipate a challenge to their legitimacy, the last thing that administrators want is evidence there is a reduced need for services. With most duration conversions resulting in less children served, opponents to the Head Start program can make the case that Head Start is overserving children and for a reduction in funding. It is important to track this development and the discussions that are gearing up around Head Start for the next fiscal year. 

Our List of Early Head Start Child Care Partnership Awards

by Andrea Abbott on 04/18/17

Like many others who applied for the last round of EHS-CCP grant funds, Heartland staff are becoming impatient as we wait for final announcement of the awardees. With this in mind, we created our own list. Using our monthly search of awards negotiated for Head Start and Early Head Start programs and our google daily news updates, Heartland has identified the following agencies as new EHS-CCP or EHS Expansion grantees. One note, use this with caution as it does not list those agencies that may be in the process of negotiating and it also may not be completely accurate. However, for now we will post it in hopes that a final list will be released soon. This list will be updated monthly until the final award list is posted by the ACF.





AR St. Department of Human Services



Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana



Sunbeam Family Services



Mile High Child Care Association



Action for Boston Community Development



United Children’s Services of Bennington County, Inc.



Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative



Municipality of Caguas



Acelero, Inc.



Acelero, Inc.



Southwestern WI Community Action Program



Genesee Intermediate School District



WSOS Community Action Commission



Northwest NJ Community Action Program



University Settlement Society of NY



Scott County Public Schools



Rolling Plains Mgmt. Group of Baylor Cottle Foard



 Motivation, Education and Training



Bright Beginnings, Inc.



Manatee Community Action Agency



Community Programs Center of Long Island



Mid-Florida Community Services, Inc.



Genesee County Community Action Agency



Pace Community Action Agency, Inc.






Mt. Hood Community College



Washington State Community College District # 17



Macon Bibb County EOC



Mid America Regional Council



Private Industry Council of Westmoreland Fayette



Council of Three Rivers AI Center -EHS Southwest PA EHS/CCP



YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago



Los Angeles Universal Preschool



Contra Costa County Auditor



Urban Strategies


Is There a Grant Season?

by Andrea Abbott on 01/04/17

Is there are Grant Season?

Heartland is constantly asked this question by organizations we are working with to develop funding and strategic plans. Our answer is somewhat complex as the idea of a “grant season” depends on your funding sources and their requirements. Grant season is also different if you are seeking new funding and launching new projects. Regardless, it can be helpful to view your grant development and management efforts in the context of these three ideas:

1.       Federal Grant Writing Season: The federal fiscal year ends on September 30th, the last half of the federal fiscal year is when the greatest number of grants are awarded (April to September). This time frame reflects all 26 federal grantmaking agencies. This timeframe also means that the actual time you will likely be writing federal grant applications is from October through March. I am groaning right now, because every year this means that grant application due dates are around the holidays…

2.      State Grant Writing Season: The fiscal year for all but four states ends on June 30th (Alabama and Michigan have a fiscal year aligned with the federal fiscal year, New York has a fiscal year end of March 31st, and Texas ends on August 31st). When it comes to state funding, you will likely experience the heaviest grant writing period from July to December.


So, the answer is: yes, there is a grant writing season. Taking into consideration when federal, state, and foundation grantmaking agencies tend to release their funding announcements and have their due dates can help you anticipate your workflow. It can also help you determine when you will need the most grant writing assistance (either budgetary funds to hire a grantwriter or internal manpower to write grants). If your agency happens to apply for all three types of funding (federal/state/foundation), it would be safe to say that the spring months will have less grant activity, and a good time for a vacation!


You Have Been Given the Gift of Time

by Andrea Abbott on 12/14/16

You have been given the gift of time. As of today, the designation renewal funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) have not yet been posted. There are many steps that programs that will be relinquishing or competing for their grant can take to get a jump on the FOA. Heartland always suggests starting early so that you have time to craft the best proposal possible. If you would like a copy of an FOA from a prior round of recompetition so that you can start working on your grant, please do not hesitate to contact Andrea at andrea@heartlandgrants.org. We are happy to find a sample FOA that is similar to your service area that you can use while waiting for the release of the new FOA.

Heartland was also recently made aware that in addition to the FOAs for this round of redesignation, an additional round of recompetition grants will be posted in January. That means that due dates will likely be in February and March (60 days after the FOA is posted). Make sure to review your program planning calendar and schedules to assure that you can set aside dedicated time to work on your proposal, while managing other program planning activities such as your community assessment, strategic planning, and mid-year data tasks. If your program is overwhelmed by these activities or is seeking assistance Heartland is here to help and able to provide high-quality, cost effective services that meet the needs of programs of all sizes. 

Don’t Be A Sitting Duck. Secure your Program Sustainability in 2017

by Andrea Abbott on 11/11/16

While the dust is still settling from the presidential election, much is still up in the air about what it means for Head Start. Trump did not comment on Head Start while on the campaign trail. However, from an assessment of his initial appointments and the capture of the House and Senate by the Republican party and the appointment of Rep. Price as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services we can make some inferences and offer a few suggestions that may help guide your program planning and decision making.

Let’s start with Mike Pence. he has a mixed record on early education to say the least. He did create a small state prek pilot in Indiana, but it only reaches five counties and served just 1,585 four-year-olds in 2015. It is anticipated to grow to 2,300 children next year. He also squandered the opportunity to obtain more than $80 million in funds to expand pre-k by deciding at the last minute to not submit the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge proposal for the state of Indiana, which was already written by a team of early childhood experts convened to design a viable program for low-income children. It is likely this proposal would have been funded as Indiana was just one of two states labeled as a “Category 1” which means it was prioritized for funding. In sum, Mike Pence has voiced some support for expanding early childhood education, but it has not been followed by consistent positive actions.

Representative Tom Price... It is an understatement to say that the Secretary of Health and Human Services has a strong influence on the direction of Head Start. President-elect Donald Trump recently announced the appointment of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as his pick. This appointment poses a potential challenge to Head Start as Rep. Price has long advocated for state control of the Head Start program. In 2003, he proposed a legislative amendment that would establish an eight state pilot program of state-run Head Start programs. While this was defeated, it is is a possibility that this idea could once again become a focus of the Republican dominated legislature. While the Head Start community is equipped with strong evidence of effectiveness and more and more programs already blend state and federal funds to serve low-income children, we will have to utilize our prior knowledge and congressional advocates in new ways to defeat similar proposals that emerge in the coming years. 

A Return to the George W. Bush Years… For the second time ever since 1929 (the beginning of the Great Depression),  the Republican Party will control the House, Senate, White House, most governorships and state houses, and will decide on a Supreme Court Justice. From 2005-2007, we also saw a Republican majority in the House and Senate, with President George W. Bush in the White House, and conservative Justice John Roberts appointed to the Supreme court.

The Bush years were a dark time for Head Start. Those of you that were working in the program likely remember the introduction of the PRISM as the on-site evaluation tool, the National Reporting System, and continued demands to provide “proof” of the value of Head Start and endless discussions around higher levels of accountability. Determinations of funding for programs were made in Washington, D.C rather than at the region level as were decisions about training and technical assistance. Head Start was held up in a stalled reauthorization and experienced flat-funding for several years, and ultimately a 1% budget cut, which represented the first time the Head Start budget was reduced since the program inception in 1965.  A proposal was also on the table to move Head Start from HHS to the U.S. Department of Education. This would have merged Head Start with state programs and imposed new academic standards on the combined program.

What now.. Trump and his Republican Congress will be in power for a minimum of four years. While the Republicans do control the White House and Congress, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will agree on everything. Also, we all know Trump is a bit of a wild card and has proposed child care tax cuts. Perhaps Head Start will also be supported. Any attempt to unravel institutions such as Head Start will take time and coordinated effort. There is no doubt that Head Start will face challenges and threats again. However, we are better prepared than ever to mobilize against them. The program has faced many challenges such as sequestration, expansion of competing programs that impact Head Start enrollment, Designation Renewal, and the Head Start Act. All of which have been navigated successfully.  We cannot forget that elected officials are also concerned due to a new sentiment about the power of “angry voters”.

How Can We Move Forward….. At Heartland we view sustainability differently than most other organizations. As a fund development organization our advice to programs is simply .. write more grants.  An aggressive fund development plan that prioritizes new programs and projects can offset shortfalls that you may experience in your base funding, be it Head Start, state preschool, or other community development block grant funding. The trick is to start early. Grant development takes time, effort and skill. Often you need to wait for funding to be released and determine if an opportunity is a good fit for your organization. In addition, you may need to apply for a grant more than once to be successful in obtaining funds. Despite these obstacles, the following grant guidelines will help you achieve sustainability in the coming years:  

-        Only submit proposals that are likely to be funded. There are two main strategies for submitting a high quality proposal 1) hire a grant writing firm to help you obtain funding or 2) invest in grant development training for your staff so that you do not incur grant development fees. Often this decision depends on your program funding streams and how they are restricted. For example, some programs can fund grant writing costs, which dramatically increases your chance of funding due to the experience of the grant writer, while other programs have more flexibility spending training and professional development funds that can be used to hire companies like Heartland to train your staff to write grants at a professional level.

-        Set a funding floor for the grants you will pursue. The grant funding floor is dependent on your total program budget, the availability of staff time, and the requirements of your funders. For example, it may not make a difference to have a $2,500 materials grant due to the level of staff time and effort required to implement the project. Heartland recommends pursuing multi-year grants that have a dollar floor minimum of $50,000 annually.

-        Include administrative and/or indirect costs in every grant budget. IDR costs can be recouped at 10% for federal proposals, even for institutions that do not have an indirect cost rate.

-        Include Cost of Living Adjustments in your proposals. It is likely you will not receive a COLA for a few years for Head Start programs, so look at sharing positions and build in a 3% COLA into annual salary costs.

-        Continually monitor the release of new funding opportunities. It is important to keep an open mind about the types of projects that you can take on over the next few years. When you are strategic planning, think about programs that could compliment your existing services. For example, currently there is a Farm to Table Grant that might be a good match for programs implementing CACFP and preschool programming. Make sure to put a process in place and assign a specific staff member to watch for new funding and track funding announcements.

Heartland is positioned to help all types of agencies attain sustainability from the start-to-finish of all funding cycles. We recently became certified in a new strategic planning method called Advanced Visual Facilitation. We are currently packaging strategic visualization consulting with our community assessment and fund development planning services. This allows Heartland to reduce the cost of the community assessment by paring it with other needed services. In addition, we are here to provide professional grant writing, grant development training, and other support for programs looking to incite change or strengthen their existing programs.


State Head Start Cost Per Child 
Click here to download our analysis.