Hey Kids, What Time is It?

Trick question: they don’t know how to tell time.

There’s just one little problem with this story:

Federal spending cuts are hitting 57,000 children who would have started preschool in the next few weeks.

The Administration for Children and Families reported Monday that 51,299 fewer children will begin Head Start preschool programs and 5,966 fewer toddlers will enter Early Head Start programs due to the $85 billion in federal budget cuts called sequester.

The federal government spends about $8 billion a year on Head Start, an early childhood development program for low income families. About 1 million children are enrolled in the program nationwide.

Proponents say that children who get a head start in early childhood learning perform better in school.

Detractors cite a federal study that found once Head Start kids get to third grade, they do no better than their schoolmates who didn’t attend Head Start programs.

There you go! It took you only 15 paragraphs to get there!

What are those “detractors” going on about?

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 sequester rides again to the rescue!

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