WASHINGTON -- President Bush will propose an increase of more than 23 percent in federal spending for preschool children in the Head Start program, and he will expand it to combat illiteracy and unemployment among parents of children enrolled in the program, administration officials said yesterday.
The president is expected to announce some of his plans Tuesday, when he visits a Head Start center in Catonsville, Md.
In his new budget request, to be submitted to Congress in nine days, Mr. Bush will seek an increase of more than $500 million for the popular program, which now serves 621,000 children at a cost of $2.2 billion this year, the officials said.
The increase would be the largest since the creation of Head Start in 1965. But it is less than is needed to guarantee access to Head Start for all children eligible on the basis of family income, supporters of the program -- including many Democrats in Congress -- say.
The Democrats and other advocates of the program would increase the Head Start budget by $1 billion a year, to reach a total of nearly $8 billion by the end of 1997.
Wade F. Horn, the Federal Commissioner for Children, Youth and Families, said yesterday that the extra money sought by Mr. Bush would permit more children from low-income families to enroll in Head Start.
At present, he said, 60 percent of the eligible children entering school have had at least one year of Head Start.