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Head Start Fail: Enrollment Fraud Edition

Lisa Snell
May 21, 2010, 1:35pm

While Head Start employees get up to 8.5 percent salary increases this year thanks to the federal stimulus and a $1 billion increase in funding from the feds for  2011, a federal random assignment study of Head Start finds that Head Start offers almost zero advantage to disadvantaged children. However, it appears that Head Start employees do succeed at fraudulently enrolling children into the program by encouraging parents to lie about their income.

As Greg Toppo at USA Today reports:

Undercover investigators trying to enroll a handful of fictitious children in federally funded Head Start child care centers found that in about half of the cases, workers fraudulently misrepresented parents' incomes, addresses and other information to allow kids to qualify for a slot.

In one instance, according to the investigators' report, a Head Start worker in New Jersey handed back one of two pay stubs and told an investigator posing as a parent, "Now you see it, now you don't."

Perhaps this is one unintended consequence of too many government-funded preschool programs. The only way that Head Start can maintain their enrollment in competition with state-funded preschool programs and preschool vouchers funded through various welfare-to work programs is to enroll children who are not eligible for the program. Keep this fraudulent enrollment in mind the next time preschool advocates publish statistics on the number of children who supposedly are not served by the government preschool sector. These children are often double and triple counted on multiple eligibility lists for government-funded preschool.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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