Head Start Isn’t

February 22, 2010Contrarian 2 Comments »

headsThe Spokesman-Review reports that the “It takes a village” crowd is plotting a new local property tax to finance early childhood education programs:

“Volunteers will gather signatures starting Tuesday to put a levy before voters in August to establish a Children’s Investment Fund. The money would be used to support early childhood learning, abuse and neglect prevention and treatment programs, mentoring programs and before- and after-school activities.”

Collectivized child-rearing, a la Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, has, of course, always been a priority goal of the Left. After all, one can’t properly program the kids for their assigned roles in Utopia if their upbringing is under the control of unreformed, individualistic, obstructionist parents, most of whom are political heathens.

To be sure, there will be a fair number of parents receptive to this plan. Anything to get those annoying rug rats out of their hair a couple years earlier. One does not turn down a free lunch.

“Four to six hours a day of free childcare? Heck yeah – sign me up. Thanks, taxpayers.”

But responsible voters will peruse the latest study of Head Start — the now-ubiquitous federal “early education” boondoggle created in the 60’s as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty — before financing this new experiment in leftist social engineering.

The study, released last month by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, compared 5000 kids randomly assigned to a Head Start program or a control group. They were divided into two cohorts, consisting of 4-year-olds and 3-year-olds. The two groups in each cohort were compared on a number of scales in two categories — “cognitive impacts” and “social-emotional impacts.”

Some findings:

Among the 4-year-olds,

♦ Upon completing kindergarten (one year after completing the Head Start program) the HS group showed no differences from the control group on any measure tested, in either the “cognitive” or “social-emotional” categories.

♦ Upon completing first grade, the HS kids showed a small improvement (9%) in “receptive vocabulary.” There were no differences on 21 other “cognitive” skills measured.

♦ In the “social-emotional” category, the HS kids did worse than the control group on three measures: “withdrawn behavior,” “shy-socially reticent,” and “problems with teacher interaction.” On the other 17 measures in this category there were no differences from the control group.

Results among the 3-year-old cohort (some of whom had 2 years of HS programming, some only one) were comparable: slight differences on 3 of the 42 scales at end of kindergarten or 1st grade, no differences on the other 39 (the 3-year-old HS kids actually did worse on the math scale than the control kids after completing kindergarten).

These non-results cost taxpayers $7000 per kid per year.

But, hey, who cares? Think of it as a “jobs bill” for bureaucrats, bored do-gooders, and teachers’ unions.

The study is here.

2 Responses to this entry

  • The Chairman Says:

    I have mixed feelings on these type of local programs. To me this is the key sentence in the article- “Spokane Public Schools officials are concerned about the competition for taxpayers’ attention and dollars, despite losing $7,291 in funding for each dropout.” Is that a loss in state or federal funding? If we weren’t shoveling money down the black whole of federal spending we would have more to spend locally. And when the feds have blanket policies that cover our whole country we are no longer able to vote with our feet.

  • Dazzeetrader Says:

    Nice work GM. Some of these programs have done great work in the past. As with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Labs…the staff who generated huge results with little money…you know…the purposeful, motivated ones….we they’re gone now. So what’s left? A great legacy but little modern production. In most cases, we should rid ourselves of this bigus Teachers Union…who do nothing but stick anopenhand out for raises…..and move forward by reshaping some form on what made the Head Start programs wonderful.