Obama Wants Universal Preschool, Even Though It's Expensive and Ineffective

state of the unionCredit: White HouseLast night, President Obama made some pretty grand claims for the power of preschool:

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on—by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own

The president is proposing a national preschool entitlement, focused on low- and middle-income families. (Though his actual preschool proposal is only slightly more detailed than what he mentioned in his speech.)

If only we had some kind of large scale well-tracked pilot program that could give us some information about whether that is a good idea. Oh wait! We do! It's called Head Start, the $8 billion federal program catering to more than 1 million low-income kids.

Better still, the federal government has done a huge study, tracking 5,000 kids and comparing them to kids who did not have access to Head Start.

The findings are not impressive. A 2010 analysis of that group found that the cognitive, health, parenting, and social benefits of the program had vanished by first grade. And a 2012 look at the third grade outcomes was even less heartening, with no discernible academic gains and teachers reporting slightly more behavioral problems in the Head Start kids. 

Even if Georgia and Oklahoma have managed to formulate slightly more effective programs (Georgia is experimenting with a voucher-like system), there's still the larger evidence of the performance of American public schools overall in the last couple of decade. Spending is way, way up while academic results remain flat.

The current performance of Head Start and public schools overall is not exactly making a compelling case that we should spend hundreds of billions more dollars to shovel kids into this system earlier.

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  • sarcasmic||

    It's never too early to start the indoctrinating.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If there's one thing I associate with OK and GA, it's gainfully-employed high school graduates with solid math skills and stable families.

  • ||

    Ahem. I graduated from an OK high school, Hugh. Is that short for "Hughbert", or long for "Huh?"-D

    In OK, that happens to be true, on the average, as OK's unemployment rates are lower than the national average, and test scores are best in what else?. Charter, magnet, and independent district schools.

    One of the things they did, and pissed off the Teacher's Union but good, was instituting an "ABCDF" grade system for schools. When poorly performing schools, particularly money pits, got "D's" and "F's", oh boy did shit hit the fan!

  • $park¥||

    I graduated from an OK high school, Hugh.

    Not seeing how that refutes Hugh's point.

  • ||

    ZING!

    I hate you Sparky.-))))

  • $park¥||

    Man, you skipped right over fear and anger.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    It's hard to refute a perception.

  • $park¥||

    The current performance of Head Start and public schools overall is not exactly making a compelling case that we should spend hundreds of billions more dollars to shovel kids into this system earlier.

    Who cares, lets do it anyway. Forward!

  • Sudden||

    What does it matter at this point?

    /Hillarized

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Why does KMW hate kids?

  • ||

    Let's not forget. We have plenty of money for this!

  • John||

    Head start is a religion with liberals. No amount of evidence of its complete failure will ever deter them.

  • Rich||

    This. The typical response I get in such debates is "Well, it's just common sense that it must be doing good."

  • John||

    If you were a conspiracy theorist you would think they love it because they want to indoctrinate kids and there is some of that. But mostly it is that they refuse to believe that reality doesn't fit what they see to be "common sense". Most liberals are totally incapable of understanding how reality can be counter intuitive.

  • ||

    Remember, John, the march toward The United Kingdom of America includes the youngest amoungst us.

    You know who else thought it prudent to nationalize pre-school youth education...

  • AuH2O||

    Head Start also has a lot of communal support, because whether it is effective in its state mission or not, it is a very effective urban jobs program.

    Although, of all the bullshit things leftists convince themselves of, I'd say Head Start is a less offensive religious doctrine than Green Energy.

  • ||

    Head Start also has a lot of communal support, because whether it is effective in its state mission or not, it is a very effective urban jobs program.

    Phooey! It's urban day care, Brit large. Much like public schools, actually.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Head Start is just like stimulus spending: if it hasn't worked yet that's because the program didn't spend enough.

    And even if it never works, good intentions trump success.

    Obviously, the US government needs to spend more on Head Start!

  • Rich||

    On a separate yet related topic: Here's the College Score Card Obama promised last night. As a test, I checked out Harvard, and got this gem: "ask Harvard University to tell you about how many of its graduates get jobs, what kinds of jobs they get, and how much those graduates typically earn."

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I think the preceding context makes it better:

    "The U.S. Department of Education is working to provide information about the average earnings of former undergraduate students at Harvard University who borrowed Federal student loans. In the meantime, ask Harvard University to tell you..."

  • Rich||

    The Dept of Ed is very busy right now, AD. We're all in this together.

  • robc||

    My alma mater has a 2% loan default rate. Harvard is at 1%. National average is 13.4%.

    Every university I checked is well under the national average.

    Oh wait, just found one: 24.1%. It was formerly a Tech training center, they did the Microsoft training and etc. I used to do some teaching for them (linux and perl, primarily). After the tech crash, they switched into the private college type stuff, especially medical field related.

    They were still doing some of the tech training for a while after the change, but eventually dropped that entirely. In that period of doing both, I felt the other stuff seemed really scammy. Im sure they were legitimately training people, but everything I heard was that they were relying entirely on student loans.

    The 24% default rate doesnt surprise me at all.

  • dave b.||

    The dirty secret about student loan default rates is that over 50% are in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance and thus don't count toward the official default rate. This is going to be an ugly bubble once it bursts - at least housing had collateral to repossess.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Turn in your tophat and monocle since you apparently don't believe in human capital.

    Obama certainly wants to indoctrinate people into the "holy orders" of public service, coerced or otherwise. I see no reason why he wouldn't approve of such selfless duty in exchange for loan forgiveness.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Even better: I tried searching for MIT. It didn't come up with any autocomplete suggestions, so I hit enter, and the search brought me right to the page for Philander Smith College. Apparently they only recognize Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and somehow MIT makes more sense for a place that has "Smith" in the name.

  • Rich||

    Top. Men.

  • robc||

    Smith

    Duh.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    That's what I singled out Smith from the rest of the name.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It said the same thing about my alma mater, which ain't Harvard let me tell you.

  • Sudden||

    Mine was 3% default rate. Woohooo UCDavis!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    1.6 and 2.5.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Of mine, Princeton had the worst, at 2.2%.

  • ||

    2.8% at Purdue.

  • ||

    What a poorly-designed UI.

  • johnl||

    Wow. That's one of the worst ways of presenting a table I've ever seen.

  • ||

    My alma mater isn't listed at all.

  • robc||

    That means a 100% default rate. Why didnt you pay back your loans?

    Either that, of they didnt teach good spelling.

  • $park¥||

    Sweet mother of pearl. The CC I'm going to has a 13.5% default rate. And that's with a repayment rate of $50/mo over 10 years.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    What do you expect them to do to get $50 a month? Forgo the unlimited data plan? You monster!

  • ||

    I tried searching for Purdue University, but the only thing it finds that way is "Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (IPFW)", it cannot find the actual Purdue University using the search. I tried using the criteria, but guess what? It can't use the criteria. It just gives the entire list of universities. So I had to go through the long, long list 2 pages at a time.

    50+ pages later, I find Purdue. The only information I care about at this point (I'm already attending and expect to graduate with no more trouble), employment, isn't there (surprise!).

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Look, the problem with Head Start is that it stops. If we continued to spend this money on these kids throughout their lives, we'd really see a difference.

  • Rich||

    Damn it! Don't give them ideas!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    What I want to know is why are we allowing children to get such a late start to their eduction? We need universal pre-pre-school. That's why Head Start isn't working: by then it's already too late.

  • H. Reardon||

    Neonatal education! Better yet, prenatal education! It's never to early to start teaching our children the valuable skills they need to compete in today's marketplace of ideas.

  • Rasilio||

    Screw that, we need to require expectant mothers to report to government funded in utero education centers for at least 3 hours a day starting at 25 weeks post date of last menstruation.

    It is clearly the only to win the future.

  • Sudden||

    They've already got the "to-grave" part down. They're gradually working on annexing the cradle.

  • ||

    Nice alt-text.

  • Rich||

    At least doubly RACIST!, if you catch my drift.

  • ||

    Nice catch. Also, you're a cantaloupe.

  • ||

    Intentions, people, intentions. Results are irrelevant. Only preconceived notions and good intentions matter.

    Oh...and Top Men.

  • Virginian||

    It's ineffective for its stated goals. It's extremely effective at hiring young leftists who got useless degrees but expect well paying jobs. Education is nothing more than a jobs program. The children aren't even near the top priority.

  • John||

    That is what it is. It is a jobs program for leftists, primarily women leftists. If we got rid of government this and the "diversity consultants" and the social workers and such there would be a lot of out of work leftists. And we can't have that.

  • Sudden||

    Moreover, the people it employs are largely so devoid of common and employable social skills, and to wit, generally end up adopting the social dynamics of those they deal with on a daily basis (4 and 5 year olds) that the very reality that the kids that go through head start end up with greater disciplinary problems by third grade not only doesn't surprise me, but rather confirms my suspicions.

  • AuH2O||

    I mean, the Pre-K curriculum is all about sharing and being nice to people. Its basically socialist.

  • wareagle||

    you had me at "Obama wants."

    /derpophile

  • AuH2O||

    The Democrats need campaign cash for 2014. A couple thousand new unionized teachers should fill the coffers very quickly.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Obama Wants Universal Preschool a new cadre of unionized teachers, Even Though It's Expensive and Ineffective becasue they give money to him and the rest of Team BLUE

    FIFY

    His wanting universal pre-school has dick to do with the children and everything to do with giving yet more graft and stolen funds to his base. It's all he knows.

  • Doctor Whom||

    But ... but ... Marco Rubio's water bottle!

    Also, never mind what has actually happened. Things will be completely different this time. No, you may not ask how; they just will be.

  • Matrix||

    3 year olds make good helpers

    This is the reason behind early pre-school... he wants train up slaves.

  • H. Reardon||

    My boys' behavior deteriorated when they were exposed to the poor behavior of others at school. It does not surprise me that the Head Start kids had worse behavior than others.

  • nipplemancer||

    I was in Head Start back in the early 80's, single mom, living in a shithole 4th-rate city, it totally made sense. My memories are of getting to play with a real hammer and nails (trying to build a death ray - didn't work), nap-time, this psychotic kid named Miguel who would tackle just about anyone and attempt to gnaw their ears off, and the horrid gruel that they called lunch. Was it effective? Absolutely, like schools it was a perfect place to warehouse kids while parents worked (or not).

  • Killazontherun||

    Warehousing kids. Yep. What are we going to do with our kids if we don't have school to send them too? They put that question out there with the assumption that it would be socially devastating to end the education racket. Somehow parents figure out what to do with them June, July and August without massive upheaval in their lives, why not the rest of the year?

  • nipplemancer||

    I quit my job to take care of my daughter full-time figuring that 90% of my paycheck would be paying someone else to take care of her. Sure, we had to sacrifice some of the things we enjoyed before having a kid, but it's totally worth it knowing that I'm not just dropping her off with strangers at a germ-factory so I don't have to deal with diapers and crying for 8 or so hours a day.

  • ||

    But however will your child learn how to socialize!? *clutches pearls*

    /sarcasm

  • GILMORE||

    jeez - come on. its not for 'teaching'... and its expensive for a reason. we need more avenues for spending shitloads of govt money on low income women to do shitty grown up babysitting jobs. you people act like these ideas exist on *their merits*. sigh. when will you ever learn?

  • ||

    This has nothing to do with education. It's about getting more unionized teachers on the payroll so they can pay dues to the public sector unions.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    But I was told by His Obamaness that every dollar spent on ECE pays itself back 7 times!

    SEVEN!

  • GILMORE||

    They are quoting this guy

    http://www.heckmanequation.org/

    "One trick pony" aint even in it. He must get a nickel every time someone quotes the magical #7

  • Mickey Rat||

    The article presumes Head Start's purpose is educating children. It's actual purpose is to make liberals feel good about themselves, in that, it is very effective

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