Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Head Start Evaluation Finally Released

Five years ago, the Department of Health and Human Services completed data collection for its final third-grade follow-up study of Head Start, the famous federal preschool program designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. The bureaucrats sat on the report for a couple of months; they probably didn't want to release it because it didn't show the results they wanted.

Head Start is a relic from LBJ's Great Society. Since 1965, taxpayers have spent $180 billion on it, but it failed to improve academic outcomes for the kids it was designed to help. The report reveals that by the third grade, Head Start had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of the participants. On a few measures, Head Start had harmful effects on children. This is important information for policymakers who vote more money for Head Start every year. Even the big money package for Hurricane Sandy victims includes millions of dollars in additional Head Start funding. In 2010 the HHS Department released the findings of the earlier Head Start Study, which tracked 3- and 4-year olds through kindergarten and first grade. The study showed that Head Start had little to no positive effects for children in Head Start. Teachers reported that children who were not in Head Start were more prepared in math skills than the Head Start kids.

The reports about Head Start show that the whole project was a colossal waste of taxpayers' money that did some good for a few kids, but some harm for others. Head Start has been a sort of sacred cow with congressional appropriating committees. But since President Obama has stated that his only criterion will be whether it works, it is clear that Head Start fails his test, and should be defunded.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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