Head Start: Can a Failed Program Ever Be Killed?

Charles N.W. Keckler and Ryan L. Cole, American Thinker, February 7, 2012

It is finally dawning on liberals that Head Start, America’s 50-year experiment with early childhood education, is a failure.

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal agency housing Head Start, announced that for the first time, its lowest-performing centers will be forced to compete for funding.

This decision follows Joe Klein’s recent confession in Time that since we no longer have money to spend on programs that do not create benefits, we should “ax” the $7.3-billion-a-year effort, which mainly supplies part-time care and education to impoverished three- to four-year-olds.


The HHS-sponsored study that converted Klein was released in January 2010 to relatively little notice, but the report’s findings are startling: the positive effects Head Start has on children (which are mild to begin with) simply vanish by the children’s first year of school.  Head Start kids are no better off than those not in the program, but taxpayers are billions poorer.

To grasp the scope of this program’s profligacy, compare the federal government’s attempts at early-childhood education to its efforts to send men to the moon: Head Start has actually cost more ($170 billion to $145 billion) than the Apollo program.


But given its good intentions, its very vocal defenders, and our current divided government, dismantling this symbol of the Great Society is easier said than done.


Klein notes that the study was a long time coming and suggested that HHS may have held it back.  As HHS appointees under President George W. Bush, we can at least partially confirm his hunch.  The program evaluation was actually commissioned in 1998 and took almost twelve years to come to fruition.  But there was no attempt to suppress the study—at least until President Bush left office in 2009.

Some insight can be gleaned from an anonymous “senior Obama administration official,” who admitted to Klein that Head Start is more “a jobs program” than an educational or antipoverty one.  This is an often-unrecognized characteristic of many social programs, which provide work for teachers and caregivers and administrators in areas where employment is often low, and, especially in the current economy, political leaders are reluctant to cut people loose.


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  • Anonymous

    High  priced federally funded childcare with the patina of an early education program.

    Black kids aren’t advancing as a result of HS but if HS is ended, the ending of HS will be seen as the cause of black educational failure.

    Keep it and we waste money on a program that doesn’t work. End it and it’s a racist conspiracy to keep blacks uneducated. It’s another black, no-win situation.

    • “To grasp the scope of this program’s profligacy, compare the federal government’s attempts at early-childhood education to its efforts to send men to the moon: Head Start has actually cost more ($170 billion to $145 billion) than the Apollo program.”

      Right, right. But at least people walked on the Moon! Head Start started in 1965 and we are still waiting for blacks to be White! Hey, if you were ever wondering, which is faster and cheaper, landing on the Moon or making a White out of a black, you’ve got your answer.

      •  A Federal report now states that many children are starting first grade who were not potty trained, pee on the floor, and cannot wipe themselves.  Now teachers will be required to teach these kids to use a toilet.  Hmmm. 

    •  Just thinking about ending it is racism.  In most European nations racism will get you sent to prison.  Don’t forget that Ginsberg told the world that the US Constitution is crap.


    People are always changing governments around the world.  Governments are being changed as we write.  The Declaration of Independence, the first law passed by Congress, grants us the right and duty to change the government and its time has come.  Its legal.

  • Anonymous

    I think it has always been a de facto babysitting program for blacks.

    Why they need babysitters, I don’t know……. How many working white people are paying $300 a week for someone to watch their kids?

  • Anonymous

    I worked in
    Head Start for many years, both as a teacher and an administrator.  When I started by career in education, I was
    an idealistic young leftist and a candidate for the Amy Biehl award.  It was my direct experience in the trenches
    of the war on western civilization that finally woke me up. I am still working
    in Head Start but also working on my escape plan.

    The latest
    attempt to improve the quality of Head Start is requiring all teachers to be
    certified. Becoming certified involves taking a “basic skills test.”  I have met numerous blacks that have been
    unable to pass this test. This is appalling to me because the test is absurdly
    easy.  I am not good at math and I scored
    93/100 on the math section.  The most
    advanced math problem was simple algebra with one variable. I could write
    volumes on all the crazy things that go on in Head Start and none of my leftist
    friends would believe me.

  • Anonymous

     These parents are going to pitch a fit and win; after all, if it was disbanded, dem mamas wouldn’t have nobody to take the little rugrats off their hands for much of the day.

  • Anonymous

    Since 1990 the race gap in SAT scores has grown.

  • Anonymous

    It used to be that due to keyword stuffing by the education industry, a Google search for “Head Start failure” would yield three pages of accolades for the program before you arrived at the truth.  Thankfully that’s no longer the case.

  • Are you out of your mind? You think we should spend another 200 billion dollars over the next 40 years over something that will patently not work?

    Why does a White have a moral imperative to be the day care provider to the offspring of a bastard nation, non-White criminal underclass? Why do I give a damn if Tyrone has “breakfiss” and Hot Lunch and knows his ABCs?

    Your notion that spending trillions somehow will save money with less criminality is patently absurd. The last 50 years of multi-trillion dollar Great Society theft from Whites to give to blacks womb to tomb, from WIC to burial subsidies, has shown that no amount of time and money will ever make them “productive.”

    How would more trillions lower crime when 50 years of it hasn’t and less than 30 percent of the population, black and hispanic, commits more than 70 percent of all crime, not just violent crime, but all crime in the country?

  • Anonymous

    I wish our resident Sinophiles would go to the moon.