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Universal pre-K? It would be a huge waste that would dwarf Head Start's failure

| Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The kind of “high quality” universal preschool continually advocated by the Obama administration and his “progressive” acolytes would be a spendthrift endeavor with no better results than ineffective Head Start.

George Mason University scholars David Armor and Sonia Sousa remind that the federal government's own Head Start study found that program's positive effects on impoverished children don't even last into kindergarten, much less into the early elementary grades.

And they note that a secondary analysis of that study “revealed no significant relationship between Head Start program quality and the major cognitive and social outcomes.

“And the long-term effects of ... Head Start programs were not statistically different from not going to preschool at all,” they write in National Affairs.

As we've said before, it's pretty much a federal baby-sitting service. And spending $75 billion on universal preschool a la Head Start would only compound a mistake that costs taxpayers $8 billion annually. Mr. Armor and Ms. Sousa instead urge funding — at 2 percent to 3 percent of Head Start's current budget — a national pre-K demonstration project involving different approaches and “a rigorous randomized evaluation that would follow participants at least into third grade.”

That would go a long way in settling the debate over the cost- and cognitive-effectiveness of pre-K “education,” while most likely avoid wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a presidential “vision” that's doomed to fail.

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