Funding an education failure

That is what President Obama is doing by increasing funding for Head Start in the FY 2011 proposed budget.

While the federal government already spends as least $25 billion on the existing 69 preschool and child care programs, the Obama administration is calling for #70—proposing $9.3 billion for a new “Early Learning Challenge Grant”. As we wrote last year, the Early Learning Challenge Grant fund would push states to spend more on preschool programs, when evidence is mounting that preschool programs aren’t delivering the benefits their proponents promise.

Here is what the state-run media isn’t reporting on, a report released recently showing that Head Start has essentially been a failure.

The evaluation, which was mandated by Congress during the 1998 reauthorization of the program, found little impact on student well-being. After collecting data on more than 5,000 three and four-year-old children randomly assigned to either a Head Start or a non Head Start control group, the Department of Health and Human Services found “few sustained benefits”. From the report:

In sum, this report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade…

The question is how long has this been known by Congress and the administration?

According to former HHS officials, the data collection for this evaluation was completed in 2006 and the report was written by the fall of 2008.  Yet the Obama administration chose to sit on it for nearly a year.  In the meantime, President Obama signed the so-called “stimulus” bill that included $5 billion in new funding for preschool.  And in September, the House passed the Obama administration’s student loan takeover plan, which also authorizes $8 billion in spending on a new preschool program (which, according to the GAO, will be the federal government’s 70th preschool and child care program).

Another question is why is the Obama administration being hypocritical? Weren’t only working programs going to be funded?

Since President Obama has pledged to “fund what works” in education, shouldn’t he be calling for Head Start to be terminated or at least reformed.  Given the administration’s planned focus on “fiscal discipline” in 2010, shouldn’t they be calling on Congress to streamline and reform the $25 billion that is spent on preschool and child care programs, rather than creating a new one?   And why is President Obama letting Congress kill the highly-effective DC Opportunity Scholarship program while they expand the flawed Head Start program?

Lindsey Burke at Heritage gets it right with this:

Head Start is the federal government’s largest early education program. For more than 40 years, this pet project has been a sinkhole for taxpayer dollars and an ineffective education program for children. As Congress considers expanding the federal government’s role in early childhood education, the new Head Start evaluation should clearly signal to policymakers the necessity of reforming existing programs – not furthering ineffective models such as Head Start.

When will the state-run media start reporting on this?  And in the upcoming election will candidates call out incumbents who voted to continue funding it?

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