When a Congressionally-mandated study released in 2008 found that President Bush’s favorite reading program was a failure, it was national news. An article by Greg Toppo in the USA Today blared the headline “Study: Bush’s Reading First Program Ineffective” and reported that the results could be a “knockout punch” for the program. Similar articles appeared in the New York Times (by Sam Dillon) and Washington Post (by Maria Glod).
But when a similarly devastating report was published last week that undercuts a pillar of President Obama’s education plans, none of these papers has bothered to report it. As we have reported, the Department of Health and Human Services finally released the results of a national evaluation of the Head Start program that Congress mandated in the late 1990s.
The evaluation found that children who had formerly attended Head Start were no better off than their non-Head Start peers by the end of First Grade. The Heritage Foundation reviewed the details of the evaluation in a new report.
According to former HHS officials, the data collection for this evaluation was completed in 2006 and the report was written by the fall of 2008. Yet the Obama administration chose to sit on it for nearly a year. In the meantime, President Obama signed the so-called “stimulus” bill that included $5 billion in new funding for preschool. And in September, the House passed the Obama administration’s student loan takeover plan, which also authorizes $8 billion in spending on a new preschool program (which, according to the GAO, will be the federal government’s 70th preschool and child care program).
Since President Obama has pledged to “fund what works” in education, shouldn’t he be calling for Head Start to be terminated or at least reformed. Given the administration’s planned focus on “fiscal discipline” in 2010, shouldn’t they be calling on Congress to streamline and reform the $25 billion that is spent on preschool and child care programs, rather than creating a new one? And why is President Obama letting Congress kill the highly-effective DC Opportunity Scholarship program while they expand the flawed Head Start program?
Journalists should be asking these questions. But the media continues to ignore this important story. American children and taxpayers deserve better.