Letter demands TMC remain in Laredo
A bipartisan congressional delegation of border representatives wrote a letter to the Office of Head Start demanding the Teaching and Mentoring Communities headquarters in Laredo remain on the border.
The letter was addressed to Ann Linehan, acting director for the Office of Head Start. It was signed by U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, U.S. Congressman Will Hurd, R-Texas, and U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.
“We have come together as border representatives to show concern for low-income children and families in our districts,” Cuellar said. “As a federal appropriator, it is my job to make sure federal taxpayer money is being used efficiently.”
In the letter, the congressmen express concern on TMC’s 2017-18 Migrant and Seasonal Head Start grant application, which includes a proposal to relocate its headquarters to San Antonio. The Migrant Seasonal Head Start program is one of the largest community-based service providers in the nation, providing a wide range of services to migrant children and their families each year.
“The program provides education and support services to low-income children of migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families in Texas, Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Iowa and Nevada,” the TMC website states.
To fund the $60 million program, TMC submits each year a grant application to the Administration for Children and Families, the federal agency that administers Head Start.
Interim TMC CEO Lorie Ochoa has said cost savings is the main driver behind the relocation proposal.
Last month, TMC’s policy committee council approved the proposal to relocate. But Cuellar later said the organization would not be relocating due to a lack of federal funds.
Ochoa, however, said the topic was still being discussed and some issues had to be resolved before the Office of Head Start gave its approval to relocate.
In the letter, the congressmen address TMC’s grant proposal, which includes a reduced budget and cuts to administrative staff. TMC says the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program can operate with less funding because it is serving fewer children.
“These reductions come at a time when Congress has increased the Head Start budget by over $500 million from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2016,” the letter states.
The letter states TMC’s governing board has attempted to use federal funds to relocate the headquarters out of Laredo.
“As representatives of communities on the U.S.-Mexico border, an economically distressed area, we find it concerning that a grantee would request to use federal funds to relocate its headquarters without just cause,” the letter further states.
The letter ends with the congressmen asking for Linehan to request and clarify how the proposed administrative cuts are necessary and will benefit the program.
“TMC’s application should address the issues of chronic under-enrollment and include strategies to increase and improve services for children and families,” the letter states.