Surrounded by dozens of irate parents and their preschoolers, Congresswoman Maxine Waters held a press conference Tuesday accusing the Los Angeles County Office of Education of discriminating against Head Start programs run by Latinos and African Americans. She’s asking the federal Department of Health and Human Services to investigate.
“Why are they doing this to minorities?” she asked at a press conference outside the agency’s office in Downey.
Waters accused county officials strong-arming the CEO of Kedren Community Health Centers to relinquish its head start contract in January after violations were found. She claims this violates federal Head Start rules, which require notice to parents and a vote by the agency’s board. She said it wasn’t the only instance.
“The other Head Start centers serving the Los Angeles area, Urban League, Delta Sigma Theta, and Federation of Preschool and Early Education Center, were accused of violations, some of which were not substantiated, and given no opportunity by LACOE to appeal," she said in a letter to Daniel Levinson, Inspector General for HHS.
Kendren serves about 2,200 children at 31 sites – about a third of them in South Los Angeles communities like Watts and Cypress Park.
Officials with the L.A. County Office of Education said they will cooperate with any investigation.
“We are confident we have followed all the necessary steps to protect the quality and integrity of Head Start programs we oversee,” the statement read. “Children and families who depend on Head Start services are LACOE’s top priority.”
Officials said they found hundreds of violations in Kedren centers over the past two years - from minor problems like adult scissors left in a classroom, to more serious violations, including allegations of inflating the number of children served.
Kedren denied some of the violations and said they were working to fix others. The centers are slated to close in June.