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Reason Foundation

Out of Control Policy Blog

Fake Spending Freeze: Head Start Edition

Lisa Snell
February 3, 2010, 1:05pm

President Obama has promised to show fiscal restraint and to reward “evidence-based” education programs. Yet, 2011 budget gives Head Start an increase of $989 million even after a January gold-standard study by the Department of Health and Human Services once again confirmed that Head Start does not offer disadvantaged students any advantage. The HHS study randomly assigned more than 5,000 preschoolers and found that by first grade not one of more than 114 academic and behavioral tests showed a reliable, statistically significant effect from participating in Head Start. Considering that a full-time, year-round, slot in Head Start costs about $22,600, as opposed to an average cost of $9,500 in a day care center; a fiscally restrained Obama could have redirected the Head Start funds to the more affordable child-care block grant. The block grant allows lower income parents to choose more cost-effective preschool providers. Instead President Obama increased Head Start funding and proposed a new $9.3 billion Early Learning Challenge Grant program to encourage states to invest in state-run universal preschool.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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