Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services improperly withheld federal Head Start funding from the Navajo Nation.
In 2017 the Trump administration reduced the federal Head Start grants to the Navajo Nation by nearly a third from $23.1 million to $15.8 million.
After the court denied their request for an injunction, the Navajo government in early-March to allocate an emergency $6.3 million to fund its Head Start program.
“Because the federal government has chosen to not provide the necessary funds, the Nation was forced to introduce emergency legislation to keep our children and teachers in the classroom and our Head Start buses providing necessary transportation,” said Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, in a press release.
In her ruling, Judge Friedrich “[declared] declare that HHS cannot reduce the Navajo Nation’s Head Start funding under the Grant unless and until the Navajo Nation is afforded the notice, appeal, and hearing rights to which it is entitled under Section 646(a)(3) [of the Head Start Act].”
“We applaud the federal court for making sure the federal government provides proper notice, appeal and hearing rights are afforded before reducing any funding that impacts the cognitive development of our children,” said President Begaye in a press release after the ruling.
Judge Friedrich mentioned that the federal government had reduced funding for the Navajo Nation Head Start program in the past due to under-enrollment. She also made clear that it was the White House’s process that violated the law, not necessarily their reasoning.