Tweaks won't fix unproductive Head Start

Tweaks won't fix unproductive Head Start

November 18th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

When a large, thorough study of Head Start discovered that the program just didn't work, it would have seemed obvious that it was time to halt federal funding for Head Start.

After all, the 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could find practically no academic or social benefit for children who participated in Head Start, which is geared toward 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Whatever positive effects Head Start may have briefly had on children, those benefits virtually vanished by the end of the students' first-grade year, the study found.

Surely no one thinks such negligible benefits justify the nearly $200 billion that has been spent on the program since it began 46 years ago!

And to make matters worse, federal investigators looking into the Head Start program last year found a great deal of fraud. In a majority of the Head Start facilities that were targeted by a federal sting, children whose parents exceeded the program's income limits were nonetheless allowed to enroll. Workers at the facilities actually falsified information on income. Some families earning more than $110,000 were permitted to enroll their children, The New York Times reported.

But despite ineffectiveness and fraud, Head Start has continued to get billions of dollars annually from Washington -- with no end in sight.

President Barack Obama recently declared that stricter financing rules will be put in place for Head Start.

"If a program isn't giving children the support they need to be ready for school, then other organizations will be able to compete for the grant."

But where Head Start is concerned, that's a badly inadequate solution.

The federal government itself found that the program doesn't work. Shuffling around the money provided to Head Start won't fix anything.

And yet the president criticized Republicans who had attempted to cut the program. He said they were "trying to gut our investments in education."

A well-intended but failed program such as Head Start is not an "investment." It's a misuse of taxpayer dollars. It's time to end that waste.