Head Start began in 1965 as an offshoot to the war on poverty. As many government programs, it began as a well meaning one to give low income families, which are often headed by single moms, the assistance in preparing their children for kindergarten. Many in the Atlanta area have enjoyed the benefits of the program.
However a recent Health and Human Services (HHS) survey, which concluded in October 2012, but released after the election shows that the program has been a 48 year $180 billion failure, at taxpayer expense.
The study found that Head Start "had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health or parenting practices of participants." And, by some measures, "access to Head Start had harmful effects on children."
The irony is that many opponents of the program have been criticized as being unfeeling or elitists. Researchers compared 5,000 Head Start Alums to their peers and found that the program had no affect, except possibly negative ones.
Access to the program for a group of three year olds had a negative affect on the teacher assessed math ability once they entered kindergarten. Teachers reported that children that had not participated in the program were better prepared for kindergarten.
And unfortunately, according to the Wall Street Journal, this isn’t the first time the program has been shown to under perform. Federal studies in 1969, 1985, and 2005 all criticized the fleeting benefits of the Head Start program.
The Heritage Foundation notes in the four year old group, “access to Head Start failed to have an effect for 69 out of 71 outcomes!" This comes at a cost of $9,000 per preschooler, which is almost a year’s worth of in-state tuition at the University of Maryland. It is bad enough that the government is spending this much money on a program that isn’t working, but what’s worse is that the program has negative affects.
The government program was supposed to help families in poverty, not to put the country in debt. But that’s exactly what Congress was proposing when the Senate used the Hurricane Sandy relief bill to tack on another $100 million to the Head Start Program.
If the administration wants to truly help American families and that the education policy should be driven by what works, isn’t it time to look beyond Head Start to real solutions like perhaps, parental choice.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)
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