The Los Angeles Times reports that President Obama plans to call for a “$1.6 billion increase in federal funding for child-care programs” in his upcoming State of the Union address. The report frames this proposal as part of a larger effort to “help the middle class.”
Some parents will probably welcome the news of more subsidized child care. But they need to remember that their children are the ones who will end up paying for the billions that will be added to the ballooning national debt, which is set to explode over the next decade. Put in that perspective, parents and taxpayers need to ask: is another “investment” in child care or preschool really worth it?
According to the GAO, the federal government currently operates 69 different early childhood education and child care program at a total annual cost of at least $25 billion. And new evidence suggests that this considerable “investment” isn’t being well spent.
As we have reported, the recently-released national evaluation of the $9 billion per-year Head Start program found the program to be a complete failure—providing zero lasting benefits to students by the end of 1st grade. Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution provides a good overview of the study’s findings and importance in a new article:
The study demonstrated that children’s attendance in Head Start has no demonstrable impact on their academic, socio-emotional, or health status at the end of first grade. That’s right. If you were a mother who lost the lottery, couldn’t get your child into Head Start, and had to care for her at home, she was no worse off at the end of first grade than she would have been had she gotten into Head Start.
Whitehurst also points out that media has completely ignored the release of the report:
The study went virtually unnoticed. You can’t find anything about it in the Washington Post or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other media outlet that serves the general public. The Post has 11 reporters covering education. Why isn’t a report on the effectiveness of the nation’s largest federally administered education program, one that serves thousands of needy children within the Post’s metro area, deemed worthy of newsprint? Is Head Start so sacrosanct that bad news about it is to be ignored?
This week’s State of the Union address should give the press another news hook to look at the Head Start report. As President Obama urges that taxpayers “invest” billions more on child care or preschool programs, he should be asked to explain whether his administration will still live up to his pledge of “funding what works.”
Taxpayers and children (the taxpayers of the future) deserve to know.