On August 13, the Office of Head Start (OHS) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for proposed changes to two of the seven conditions for DRS, CLASS and fiscal. The Information Memoranda (IM) sent to Head Start/Early Head Start grantees describes the changes as the following.
For the CLASS® condition, the NPRM proposes to remove the lowest 10 percent criterion and set more rigorous minimum thresholds across all three domains grantees must meet in order to avoid designation for competition. Specifically, the proposed rule would increase the minimum threshold for Emotional Support from 4 to 5, Classroom Organization from 3 to 5, and Instructional Support from 2 to 2.5.
For the fiscal condition, the NPRM proposes to add a second criterion that would consider Head Start findings from annual audits to determine whether fiscal management challenges exist. This specific use of Head Start audit findings provides OHS an earlier predictor that is more comprehensive to detect fiscal management and oversight risks.
While the NPRM focuses significantly on the CLASS condition and fiscal condition of DRS, OHS is also requesting comments related to the deficiency condition of DRS and whether it is too strict (e.g., a single deficiency by a program leads to DRS). This is an area that emerged in feedback OHS received in late 2017. As stated in the NPRM, “We believe this NPRM provides another opportunity for stakeholders to provide input to ACF on this issue. We specifically seek comment on whether the condition should be two or more deficiencies rather than a single deficiency.”
You may submit comments on the NPRM until September 27, 2019. Comments can be submitted by mail, through regulations.gov, or on the NPRM website (look for the green “Submit a Formal Comment” button” in the top right corner of the page). The current conditions for DRS continue to be in effect until a final rule is issued. This is an important opportunity to provide input to OHS and we encourage you to submit comments if you have feedback about the conditions addressed in the NPRM.
It could take some time for the proposed changes to DRS to go into effect given the closing of the NPRM comment period (comments due September 27) and the need to review and finalize the proposed changes. The next round of DRS (round 8) grant competitions is forecasted to begin during the first week of September. Therefore, we don’t expect any changes to the current cohort of grantees required to compete for funding in DRS. If interested, you can learn more about the regulatory timeline. This NPRM is in the proposed rule stage and will move to the final rule stage upon completion.
If you specific questions or concerns about how the proposed changes could impact your program, we encourage you to reach out to your Regional Office.