Failing Sandbox

Let’s begin the day and the week with a joke, shall we?

Didja hear the one about Head Start?

Since its creation as part of the War on Poverty in 1965, nearly 30 million children have participated in Head Start at a taxpayer cost of more than $180 billion. The problem is that by the government’s own reckoning the program has never achieved what it promises.

The first major evaluation was in 1969 by the Westinghouse Learning Corporation and Ohio University. It found that pre-schoolers who did make cognitive gains did not maintain them in early grades and that Head Start participants performed no better than children from similar backgrounds who had never been in the program. Federal evaluations in 1985 and 2005 also found that any positive cognitive impact was transitory.

The Department of Health and Human Services released the results of the most recent Head Start evaluation on the Friday before Christmas. Once again, the research showed that cognitive gains didn’t last. By third grade, you can’t tell Head Start alumni from their non-Head Start peers.

The Congressionally mandated Head Start evaluation put out last month was more than a year late, is dated October 2012 and was released only after Republican Senator Tom Coburn and Congressman John Kline sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting its release along with an explanation for the delay. Now we know what was taking so long.

Like so many programs directed at the poor, Head Start is well-intentioned, and that’s enough for self-congratulatory progressives to keep throwing money at it despite the outcomes. But misleading low-income parents about the efficacy of a program is cruel and wastes taxpayer dollars at a time when the country is running trillion-dollar deficits.

Thirty years, $180,000,000,000, and no benefits. Ready for the punch line?

On January 4, Congress approved $9.7 billion in initial relief for victims of the storm. A second vote on the rest of the $60.4 billion aid package is planned for Tuesday, and among the numerous items unrelated to clean-up efforts is $100 million in additional funding for Head Start, the LBJ-era program that already spends $8 billion a year trying to prepare low-income toddlers for kindergarten.

What’s the matter? Why aren’t you laughing? Don’t you get it?

We’re over $16,000,000,000,000 in debt, strung out on a $1,000,000,000,000-a-year deficit habit, trying to recover from a so-called “superstorm” (it was just a hurricane, right?), and we toss $100,000,000 at a failed program like so many singles at a strip club (so I’ve heard). It’s hysterical!

And all to prepare toddlers to enjoy juice and crackers and finger painting!

Which doesn’t work!

We are so fundamentally unserious as a country, we deserve the ruin and humiliation we are working so hard to achieve. Well, 50.4% of us do; the rest of us are being dragged along for the ride. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

1 Comment »

  1. judi said,

    January 14, 2013 @ 9:06 am

    It’s almost as if the problem doesn’t lie with the educational system but something else, like at home? Well, let’s just keep throwing our money at it for another few decades just to see.

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