Who could possibly be against giving impoverished children a "head start"?
Well, in 1965, Congress approved Head Start--to give children living in poverty a "head start" on school--as part of the "Great Society."
The program's intent was to assist low-income children to catch up with middle-class children by kindergarten. Head Start classes are small, with low child-to-staff ratio. As a federal program, Head Start operates separately from local school districts and is usually administered by agencies at the county- or city-level.
In 2011, enrollment was 1M preK students. It cost $7.6B.
What are the taxpayers getting for their investment? After all, it's almost 50 years since Head Start began. There should be some data concerning the program's efficacy, no?
In short, the taxpayers have invested in another Solyndra.
Two George Mason University professors, David J. Armor and Sonia Sousa, have compared Head Start students with preK students who did not participate in the program. Their findings:
- Head Start children demonstrate positive effects compared to children who had no preK. However, those effects were limited to the year spent in Head Start and didn't extend to kindergarten or first grade.
- The group of three year olds who didn't participate in any preK program had higher cognitive scores than the three year olds who did participate in Head Start.
- Critics cite the poor quality of Head Start's curriculum to explain why the program has failed. However, Armor and Soussa's research discovered no significant correlation between the quality of the Head Start program and the students' cognitive and social outcomes.
In fairness, other preK programs have demonstrated similar negative results, that is, the lack of positive long-term cognitive or emotional effects. In other words, preK appears to be a universal failure! Yet, the federal government--at the President's bidding--wants to spend another $75B on a universal preK program.
Armor and Soussa argue that if President Obama is interested in a preK program for the disadvantaged, a portion of Head Start funding should be allocated to a national demonstration project--with a rigorous evaluation system--that institutes preK programs in a select group of cities. Only when the government can provide evidence that a program is actually going to produce valuable long-term results, Armor and Soussa maintain, should more money be spent on preK education.
Why not just call federally-subsidized preK what it is? Very expensive day care at the cost to taxpayers of $7.6k/student/year with no demonstrable results. In short, another Solyndra.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the study conducted by David J. Armor and Sonia Sousa, click on the following link:
"The Dubious Promise of Universal Preschool."