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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Rhonda Seltz (“Give our children a Head Start,” July 25 commentary) sings the praises of Head Start: “We have to save Head Start. There is simply no other option if we are going to live up to our responsibility to provide for our children.” Seltz clearly does not know the facts.
Since 1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on this relic of the Great Society, a federal government experiment that has damaged our society. Since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 legislation declaring a War on Poverty, 15 trillion taxpayer dollars have been spent on dysfunctional entitlement programs that have caused greater dependence on government and destruction of the family, particularly the black family.
In 2008, Congress mandated an evaluation of the Head Start program. The Department of Health and Human Services, using a scientifically rigorous research methodology, released the report in October 2012 (Head Start Impact Study, tinyurl.com/bldxd9o). The study tracked 5,000 children randomly assigned either to a group receiving Head Start services or to a group that did not participate in Head Start. Progression was followed for these two groups from ages 3 or 4 through the end of third grade.
The report states that Head Start “had few impacts on children kindergarten through third grade.” Head Start did have an impact on children’s language and literacy development while they attended Head Start, but these effects “rapidly dissipated in elementary school.”
By first grade, there was no discernable difference between children who attended Head Start and the control group of similar children who didn’t. In addition, teachers reported that Head Start had a harmful effect on math ability once the children entered kindergarten. The results for the third grade again showed no difference, as one would expect.
I have visited Head Start programs throughout the New River Valley in my role as adjunct professor at Radford University. The staff at each center do have a “genuine love and commitment” to the kids, as Seltz wrote. But this is irrelevant.
The federal government should not be surrogate parents. Parents, not the federal government, are responsible for their children. Taxpayers continue to fund an ineffective program.
I agree with Seltz that voters need to make an informed choice when casting their ballots for governor this fall. I hope Virginians will vote for the candidate who supports ridding taxpayers of yet another failed liberal program. Head Start needs to go.
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