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Head Start: It doesn't work

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Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

Washington's response to problematic public education -- throw more money at it -- is nowhere more evident than in 69 preschool and child-care programs, which collectively add up to $25 billion annually. Of these the most sacred is Head Start, a $9 billion-per-year program that serves about 900,0000 low-income children.

Since Head Start's inception in 1965, supporters have attested to its vast benefits. But until recently there's been no rigorous evaluation of its effectiveness for young children entering grade school.

A new study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that $167.5 billion later (in 2009 dollars) Head Start has been a non-starter for children. In 41 measures of cognitive outcomes for 4-year-olds, the program had no impact. Note the study's authors, "the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole."

That it took the feds more than 40 years for a proper analysis suggests it's the spending that matters, not results.

And yet Congress is moving ahead to increase early childhood education programs with $8 billion in new spending.

Mr. Obama has said, repeatedly, that federal programs without benefit should be dumped. Well, Mr. President, here's one.

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