Major Updates Proposed to Head Start Program Performance Standards

Major Updates Proposed to Head Start Program Performance Standards

On Monday, November 20 the Office of Head Start on issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with major updates to the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). This proposal represents the most consequential changes to Head Start since standards were revised in 2016. The 282-page NPRM details 67 proposed new rules and initializes a public comment period that will close on January 19, 2024.

We are confident that by working together, we can make our voices heard. Our community is loud, our community is large, and that makes our community powerful. We recognize that the proposed changes are very positive however we are cautious because these changes would be unfunded mandates if taken into effect, and we are still in a Continuing Resolution and waiting for Congress to pass the FY24 budget.

The Virginia Head Start Association will be submitting formal written comments on the proposed new rules. To guide our comments, we will be having numerous conversations with our various service-area networks and directors. We are also working closely with our partners at the National Head Start Association and encourage you to share your concerns. You are also encouraged to submit comments directly on behalf of your program.

Summary of Key Proposed Changes

Following are a selection of particularly impactful changes from the NPRM. Visit this page to view all 67 proposed changes.

Employee Compensation

  • Requirement that programs establish pay scales and benchmark salaries against the local school district’s compensation for similarly qualified K-3 teachers
  • Requirement that minimum pay be sufficient to meet basic cost of living in the local area
  • Substantial increases in benefits, including providing (or facilitating access to) health insurance; sick, personal, and family leave; and mental health services

Mental Health

  • Establishment of a multidisciplinary mental health team
  • Requirement to provide mental health consultation services at least monthly
  • Allowing programs to work with “mental health consultants” who are providing services under licensed mental health professionals

Quality Improvements

  • Establish a maximum caseload of 40 families per family service worker
  • Protect children from exposure to lead in the water and paint of Head Start facilities through regular testing and, if needed, remediation
  • Encourage lower teacher to child ratios for Early Head Start classrooms serving the youngest children


  • Revise definition of ‘income’ to provide a clear, finite list of income sources that should be counted for eligibility determination
  • Adjust a family’s gross income to account for excessive housing costs in their community, for eligibility determination purposes


Following are resources for you to learn more about the proposed changes.

OHS Fact Sheet

Full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (282 pages)

NHSA Statement on Proposed Changes

Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers (impetus for the proposed changes)


NHSA Overview Webinar

Recorded OHS Overview Webinar (high level overview of changes and comment process – 1 hour)

Recorded OHS Deep Dive Webinar (deeper dive into proposed changes and comment process – 1 hour)





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