Children of the State
Albert Einstein famously quipped that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” One could be forgiven for believing Einstein was specifically describing the behavioral pattern of Washington.
During his State of the Union address, President Obama called for government-mandated and federally-funded preschool for “every child in America.” This declaration for Universal Pre-K was followed by the dubious assertion that studies show students stand a greater chance to succeed if exposed to government run childhood education programs.
Aside from the obvious fiscal concerns of creating new federal education programs and expanding existing ones, the President apparently missed the latest study out of his own Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showing the Head Start program to be a dismal failure. Perhaps this report inconveniently landed on the President’s desk while he snuck in a round with Tiger on the back nine.
The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke explains the breadth of Head Start’s failure in a recent report:
Impacts on Cognitive Development. For cognitive development, the third-grade study assessed 11 outcomes for the original three- and four-year-old cohorts. Access to Head Start for each group had no statistically measurable effects on all measures of cognitive ability, including numerous measures of reading, language, and math ability.
Impacts on Social-Emotional Development. For social-emotional development, the third-grade study assessed 19 outcomes for each cohort. For measures of parent-reported social-emotional outcomes, access to Head Start for the three-year-old cohort failed to affect four of the five measures. For child-reported measures of social-emotional outcomes, access to Head Start had no statistically measurable effect on the four outcomes for the three-year-old cohort. On the other hand, access to Head Start for the four-year-old cohort appears to have had one harmful impact—children in the third grade with access to Head Start reported worse peer relations than their counterparts.
Taxpayers have shelled out nearly $180 billion since Head Start’s inception in 1965 and studies consistently show they have seen no benefits from their hard-earned dollars. Furthermore, the claims made by the President that kids in preschool programs stand a greater chance to succeed are based on a single three decade old report that has never been replicated at the state level. As Russ Whitehurst at the Brookings Institution explains, such claims and generalizations require “prodigious leaps of faith.”
Unfortunately, the statist left have no qualms taking such leaps of faith if it expands the power of the government at the expense of the taxpayer. And once again, Washington politicians are aiming to replicate failure under the hysterical pretense that this time it really will work.