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Head start

Posted: January 28, 2014 8:34 a.m.
Updated: January 29, 2014 5:00 a.m.

President Obama’s plan to expand early-childhood education on a massive scale sounds at first blush like a great idea. After all, who can argue with the fact of helping kids -- especially disadvantaged kids -- get a break early in life, thus helping them gain valuable skills and leading productive lives? The only problem is that the government itself --  the Department of Health and Human Services, in particular -- has found that programs such as Head Start don’t work on a long-term basis.

In late 2012, the department completed an exhaustive study of Head Start. The results weren’t what big-government advocates want; they showed that of 11 measures of cognitive ability -- including reading, language, and math ability -- access to Head Start made no difference for either 3- or 4-year-old students on any outcomes. There were similar disappointing results for social-emotional development and child health issues.

The Brookings Institution, a politically left think tank, found in a 2010 study that two out of five children in this country are now born out of wedlock, “assuring the persistence of poverty, wasting human potential and raising government spending.” It went on to say that “reducing non-marital births and mitigating their consequences should be a top priority of the nation’s social policy.”

Yet Obama and many pols in Washington continue to push the fact that universal pre-kindergarten programs are the be-all, end-all of solving the country’s problems. In fact, there might be new models out there that are promising and work better than Head Start. But committing megabucks on a hope and a promise is not what needs to be done at this time. All one has to do to realize that is to pay attention to what our own government studies show.

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