Head Start is supposed to be the exception to the Great Society
rule a welfare program that actually works. David Broder
of the Washington Post calls it "the most effective anti-crime
and anti-drug program in the nation. " Sen. Edward Kennedy says
we should model a "Marshall Plan" in "early education" on it. The
New York Times calls it the "Great Society jewel."
me if I don't want it set into the national diadem just yet, especially
since the deficit reductioneers of the Bush administration just
granted Head Start a 72% increase to $2.4 billion in 1992,
with scheduled growth to $7.7 billion in 1994.
idea sounds plausible, of course. Take pre-school, inner-city children
and bridge the income and behavioral gap between the underclass
and the rest of society Head Start would "interrupt the cycle of
poverty" with education, medical care, psychological counselling,
and food, we were told. Yet Head Start has been a failure, even
by the social scientists' own criteria.
on a budget of $17 million, Head Start cost almost $100 million
its first year. By last year, the budget was 1.4 billion, with fewer
the early years, extensive studies were undertaken to prove the
program worked. But the opposite turned out to be true. In 1969,
the Westinghouse Learning Corporation found no difference
in behavior and educational achievement between Head Start children
and other underclass kids.
years later, the CRS Synthesis Project study, commissioned by HHS,
came to the same conclusion. Although children showed "immediate
gains," by the second grade "there are no educationally meaningful
Start defenders now say the purpose of the program is to improve
behavior, self esteem, and nutrition at $8,400 per kid over
the usual three years. But the same CRS study said there were no
lasting differences in behavior. And on "achievement motivation"
and "self-esteem," Head Start children "drop below non-Head Starters
a year after Head Start, then score about the same as comparison
children for the next two years."
CRS study did find that Head Start kids "have higher protein, calorie,
and essential nutrient intake than children who do not attend"
because they are given a meal and a snack during the day
but that benefit dissipates after leaving the program. In fact,
the only lasting impact, the study found, came as a result of immunization
involvement, which is supposed to distinguish Head Start from other
welfare programs, is minimal. A National Parent Involvement Study
found that only about 9% of parents volunteer even one day a week.
proponents say it is insensitive to examine the actual behavior
of Head Start children, since this doesn't take into account the
supposed "desire" for better behavior that the program instills
(although any visitor to a non-Potemkin Village Head Start center
has to wonder exactly what sort of behavior is being instilled).
And two Howard University researchers say that Head Start can't
work as long as it's run by whites who ignore the unique learning
patterns of blacks.
Start is supposed to help get families off welfare, but the CRS
study shows "increased use of education, health, and social services"
euphemisms for welfare. Thus Head Start, like all welfare
programs, teaches dependency.
Children's Defense Fund says the main benefit of Head Start is the
jobs provided to the disadvantaged 32% of whom are former
Head Start children. Once again as is typical in Washington,
Chicago, New York, and other big cities "employment" in a
welfare program is itself a form of welfare.
should help poor kids, but how can a government dedicated
to undermining family and individual independence in every section
of the population do so? Economic and political theory, as well
as bitter experience, tells us that no non-private effort can do
in the underclass have gotten far worse as government has crowded
out charity. We could paraphrase Tacitus: they make a desolation,
and call it welfare.
can anyone argue, after six decades of the welfare state, that children,
even from poor families, are better off in the hands of state social
workers? Or that bureaucrats can teach proper behavior? Hasn't anyone
ever visited a federal office? Miss Manners doesn't work there.
25 years of proven non-achievement, isn't it time to reassess Head
Start and the Bush administration's giant spending increase for
federal government is broke, and it's breaking the American people
with more taxes. As a result, we all have less money to give.
not abolish this program, and give a real head start to taxpayers
and the private organizations that actually help poor people? Making
the poor wards of the state has only enhanced the state, and hurt