Obama to announce changes to Head Start funding during Philadelphia visit

President Obama will announce changes to federal funding for the Head Start early education program Tuesday at an event in Philadelphia designed to showcase not only his education record but also Republican willingness to reduce spending in an area he believes is crucial to future job creation.

The funding changes will require low-performing public schools that receive Head Start funding to compete for that money in the future rather than receive it automatically, as is the current rule. An administration official, speaking anonymously to preview the president’s announcement, said the step would promote accountability in public education.

“President Obama knows America’s kids only get one shot at their education, and they can’t wait for Congress to help them,” the official said. “That’s why he has acted where Congress won’t.”

During his short Philadelphia visit, Obama will tour a classroom and deliver brief remarks on education, likely tinged with the partisan tone of his recent appearances outside the Beltway to promote his jobs bill. The trip is part of the president’s “we can’t wait” campaign, in which he is focusing on executive actions that do not require congressional approval.

With his $447 billion American Jobs Act legislation stuck in Congress, Obama has been warming up his 2012 re-election campaign by contrasting his willingness to act with Congress’ partisan gridlock. Some recent polls have shown a slight bounce in his approval rating since he unveiled the message last month.

The administration official said Obama secured a $340 million increase in Head Start funds for the current budget, despite Republican moves to cut spending on the program.

Obama’s pointed message is intended to shore up declining support from independent voters, who say the quality of American education is a concern for them. Obama is expected to mention GOP proposals to reduce spending on Pell Grants for college tuition and a reluctance to approve Obama’s jobs bill, which includes money for teacher hiring.

“A top-notch educational system is critical not just for our children but for our nation’s economic future,” the administration official said. “Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have proven they won’t take serious action to ensure that every American child gets a world-class education.”

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.

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