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  • Head Start: A $150 Billion Failure

    President Obama and other supporters of increasing government spending on preschool have argued that “investments” on early childhood education yield big results later in life. As President Obama told an audience last March, “For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime.” The president and other preschool backers generally base these claims on impressive results from one or two small-scale preschool programs that existed decades ago and that have not been replicated since.

    Unfortunately, a new (long overdue) report published by the Department of Health and Human found that the $150 billion that taxpayers have “invested” in Head Start since 1965 is yielding zero lasting benefits for participating children. According to the Head Start Impact Study: “the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.” The Heritage Foundation reviews the findings of the new evaluation in a forthcoming Backgrounder report concluding: “Head Start has little to no effect on cognitive, socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of children participating in the program.”

    This rigorous evaluation was published months after the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation favored by the Obama administration that would create a new $8 billion preschool program. According to the GAO, there are currently 69 federal early education and child care programs. Taxpayers are currently spending at least $25 billion annually on these programs.

    Given the devastating results of the national Head Start evaluation, taxpayers should demand that Congress and the Obama administration work to terminate, consolidate, or reform existing preschool programs before another dollar is “invested” in preschool.

    President Obama has stated that his administration would, “use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” It’s time to apply that test to the failed Head Start program. Taxpayers and disadvantaged kids both deserve to get more return on investment from a preschool program that spends $8 billion annually (or $7,300 per child served).

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    26 Responses to Head Start: A $150 Billion Failure

    1. Kathy Bannon, RN Dal says:

      No child left behind did help some children with LD. My dtr has dyslexia and oral language deficit disorder dx when she was 8. Put her in pvt school for kids with LD's. No child left behind wasn't implemented in TX in time to help her in elementary school but when she returned to Public School for High School she did benefit. She will be graduating from SMU in Dallas Texas May 2011. She plans to obtain Certification from SMU to counsel children and families that are struggling to help their children deal with and learn how they learn not the way most children learn. Thank You George W.Bush for everything you accomplished with the "No Child Left Behind". As mother and proud American citizen! You were a great President" No one will ever convince me otherwise.


    2. Gold Beach, OR says:

      Yet another failing government program. It never ends!

    3. Bobbie Jay says:

      I am happy "no child left behind" has helped some, but government isn't honest or right anymore. They have agendas behind closed doors and multiple unaccountables. If parents thought really deep about what they are really putting their children through, they wouldn't be putting the minds of their children in the hands of today's American government. Obama took any chance of being free to succeed AWAY! Head Start is NOTHING but a FREE DAYCARE! People of culture could start their business to bring up their children according to their culture instead of obligating TAX PAYERS TO FUND! Which is highly unconstitutional! tax payers shouldn't be obligated to single anyone out by race creed or culture, WITH TAX DOLLARS! THAT'S NOT AMERICA!!!! The best preschools are the ones at the parents expense, where THOSE THAT SERVE ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!

    4. Jack McCarthy says:

      While Head Start leaves a great deal to be desired, there are evidence-based early interventions that close the achievement gap in children at-risk of school failure before they enter kindergarten. These programs build background knowledge, vocabulary, language, phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, print awareness, early numeracy as well as social and emotional skills.

      We need to define "quality preschool" in a way that measures these kinds of outcomes, rather than "inputs" that contribute very little to learning and development.

    5. Robert Reynolds, Tuc says:

      The truth and Obama are strangers.

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    9. Paula-Orlando says:

      As a newly retired Gov't school teacher, I can attest and testify that the report confirms what I believed to be true. That entitlement programs focus on compliance not achievement. It is when you focus on achievement, that we see improvement in students' scores. Teacher unions are very opposed to this and continue to fight real reform.

    10. Shaamex springfield says:

      Head Start is far from a failure. But some of the policy decisions that have been made are not well thought out at times. The core idea of serving low income families by providing education and nutrition are still there. Head Start is not free. And parents have requirements to do. As a model, no one has on a large scale been able to implement a way to serve such a large population. Especially, those who need help the most. Some of the most vocal opponents of Head Start have never been to a Head Start Center and therefore do not know of what they speak. Each day children gather together for a chance to play with other children and enjoy a hot breakfast or lunch (Maybe the only ones they will receive for that day) A common sound within a center is the sound of laughter not only coming from the children but from the teachers and staff as well. No, not yet a failure.

    11. Robert Langston, Flo says:

      Yes, Head Start appears to be a colossal failure. We need to be specific in the criticism of failed programs and even more specific with the solutions to root cause problems.

      As a start, let's begin by naming at least four more programs that are equally as bankrupt as Head Start, detailing the nature of the failures, listing the dollars wasted and pointing out where President Obama and members of his administration are dissembling when they talk about the success of such programs.

      Can anyone point me to competent information of this nature?

    12. Roberto, Florida says:

      You know, it irritates me that Obama and his allies come out in support of "investments" in preschool education, yet they work to shut down voucher programs in DC for children that need help right now, and can benefit from switching to a better school. Most of those children's parents don't have a hope of paying for better schools without a voucher program. Yet, the Democrats are simply unwilling to provide them the opportunity to change schools.

      It might be better to help kids right when they are starting their formal learning, but it is much better to help kids who are on the brink of failure due to the incompetence of their own schools.

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    18. Theresa, Texas says:

      Oh yea! Lets get rid of Head Start so that children can go hungry, and parents can stop working because they can't afford daycare, and lets not forget to isolate these low income children so that when they start kindergarten they will have no friends which will make them targets for bullies and when no one listens to them because they have no socialization skills they will probably hurt one of your children. Who will be the failure then. Not Head Start.

    19. Doug, Missouri says:

      Did any of you by chance read the Head Start Impact study? It also says "The study shows that providing access to Head Start led to improvements in the quality of the early childhood settings and programs children experienced. On nearly every measure of quality traditionally used in early childhood research, the Head Start group had more positive experiences than those in the control group." The Head Start program by no means has failed the children. We always for some reason try to blame the other side on every issue that supposedly has problems. Obama this and Obama that but in all reality one of the main problems with the Head Start program is the lack of over-site by the State Governments. I do agree that Federal Government needs to stop dishing out money to all of our problems but in a lot of our problems it is not their fault. The Federal Government provides the State Government with funding for the things that they need and the State Government turns around and uses it for useless things which causes programs such as Head Start to lose quality.

    20. Michelle Dossett in says:

      If only Head Start would employ better teachers, the program would be successful. Right now, Head Start is acting as an employment agency to assist single, welfare mothers in getting a leg up on landing one of the desirable full-time Teaching Assistant jobs. Head Start wants to assist these women in getting them set up in a job as a T/A in order to try to get them off the welfare roles. Many of these women do not have the neccessary qualifications to work in fast food or gas stations, but Head Start will hire them. These women have poor credit and arrest records (among other run-ins with the Law) so the private sector won't hire them for any of their cash handling type jobs. So who ends up hiring them? Why, it's Head Start of course!!! The typical Head Start Assistant Teacher in the Deep South is a single, despearately poor, welfare mom who lives in the neighborhood where the school is located. This typical Teaching Assistant speaks in a quasi-Ebonics English or a slang English and writes at a 6th or 7th grade level. This typical individual will have children who possibly are struggling in school, have been held back a grade, or has been expelled from school altogether. The typcial Teaching Assistant at Head Start will be someone who's really stressed out, irritable and exhausted because of her roller-coaster home life. These stressors make her really grumpy, harsh, angry and controlling in the classroom. She will take her frustrations out on the kids in her class by being harsh, strict, and quick to punish. Poor kids. They are just pawns in a terrible government contolled game. Many Head Start centers operate more like juvenile detention day camps for preschool age kids. They warehouse the kids all day, five days a week, and they send the children home completely exhausted. What are the three basic rules for teachers to follow at Head Start? Keep them clean; Keep them Safe; and (of course) Send them home in one piece. Everything else is optional.

    21. Barbara , Raleigh says:

      Come on, fraudulent behavior. Why not send the GAO undercover to Goldman Sachs or better-to investigate the felonious behavior of BP. This was a couple of employees trying to squeeze more children into a Head Start program. No one was benefitting monetarily, — surely this is a concept that won't be understood by you people who would love nothing more than to tear down any federal program that benefits the poor. I wonder if any of you have ever been in a Head Start center to see the utter joy on the faces of children who have little to look forward to in life?

    22. Mary Texas says:

      How many of you have spent a day at a Head Start.To some of this children Head Start is the only stability they have. Head Start not only offer breakfast, lunch and a snack, but make sure that children are up to date on shots, receive a yearly physical and see a dentist every 6 months and services that they qualify for such as WIC. Parents receive help aplying for medicaid because they are to embarased to aply because they can not read or write.Some families go from medicaid to health insuranse because Head Start staff cared enough to research and get health insurance quotes that they would never research for because they can not afford it. Head Start also encourage parents to get a GED, suply book to study, information on where to take free classes and when and where to take GED and they also pay for the test. If parent has high schol diploma or GED we encourage parents to further their education by attending college or online classes. Children leave the Head Start Program knowing colors, shapes, writting their names, can identify letters and numbers,can tell you letter sounds, know the difference between more and less. Head Start include parents input on lesson plans. I could go on and on and there will be people that still will not believe a word I say. You know they say that actions speak loughter than words. Volunteer at your local Head Start and see it your self. Head Start makes a difference in children, parents, community and their staff. If you have not figured it out, yes I work at a Head Start and I wish I had someone that cared and gave me parent information or set with me thru my childs ARD meeting and help me understand my rights as a parent and my childs best interest. Educate me because I just found out that my child has a disability or behavior problem. Someone that was there for support. Yes I work for Head Start and I am proud of it. I have seen the difference Head Start has made in a child, a parent and in the community. Don't talk until you know the facts. Volunteer.

      • Diane says:

        No one is stating that it doesn't have benefits to the pre-school child participating in the program. The complaint is two years later over 100 indicators show no difference between disadvantaged children who attended and didn't attend. The goal was supposed to be turning a disadvantaged child into a child who can compete in the regular classroom through out their education. Let's face it, parent(s) must jump in and learn ways to encourage and help their children and come out as advocates of education and working hard to learn in school, otherwise the "long term purpose" for which Headstart was intended is a failure.

    23. Erin, Delaware says:

      Thank You to everyone who is advocating for Head Start. It is true, opponents please volunteer at a Head Start for a day to understand both sides of the story. You get goosebumps and a happy feeling when you watch a four year old write their name or a three year old sing their alphabet. We are here to ADVOCATE for the children and their families and try to help them lead a better life BEFORE they go down the wrong road.

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    25. jens says:

      Too bad you are wrong. If you actually read the report it says that there are a number of positive outcomes; you cherry picked the one negative line in the entire executive summary. What is even more disturbing is that most of the posters here don't seem to have bothered to have read the report either… this undermines heritage's credibility; are you trying to have an unbiased conversation of a report or just acting as a propaganda mill

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