U.S. Government: Our “Head Start” Program Doesn’t Work

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Head Start, the flagship federal education program for low-income preschoolers, doesn’t work. That is the conclusion of yet another high quality, large-scale randomized experimentcommissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the program.

Like an earlier study that found no lasting benefit to Head Start by the end of the 1st grade, this new study confirms no lasting benefit by the end of the 3rd grade—after an investment of 47 years and about $200 billion.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently warned that going over the “fiscal cliff” would result in cuts to programs like Head Start. It would, in other words, cut federal education programs that don’t work—which is actually what Barack Obama promised to do on the campaign trail back in 2008. Remember when he said “I want to go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don’t work, we cut”? Apparently, neither does he.

Perhaps that’s one reason the DHHS decided to sit on this report for four years after data collection was completed, and sneak it onto the Web on the Friday before Christmas without so much as a statement. The “most transparent government in history” is transparently uninterested in anything except political expediency. Doesn’t care about your kids. Doesn’t care about your money. Just. Doesn’t. Care.

Hat tip to professor Jay Greene for uncovering the release of this study, and for promising to search out the names of the government officials responsible for burying as long as possible the proof of their own failures. 

[Editor’s Note: See this Cato essay for more on Head Start and other subsidy programs administered by the Department of Health & Human Services.]