Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


By Domenick J. Maglio PhD Traditional Realist

Almost every American has been lead to believe that Head Start is an excellent program. It is the government preschool program for financially deprived families. It is a well-established program that has been in existence for almost half a century. Many families have had grandparents, parents and now their children attending this program.

Head Start was launched in 1965 by Lyndon B. Johnson’s, War on Poverty. It’s mission was to give underprivileged children readiness skills to succeed in school. Originally it was an 8 week-long summer program. In 1998 Head Start became a full day, full year service program. 

This is a program that was supposed to assist students to better compete with more economically advantaged students. It has not. Head Start has been more of a jobs program for minority workers than an educational or anti poverty one. This is not how it has been sold to the American public.

On September 6, 2012, in his acceptance speech for the democrat party nomination for president, Barack Obama reiterated the need to fund Head Start.  He did this even though his administration’s Department of Health and Human Services found no lasting evidence of its effectiveness for students who attended.

Throughout the convention, speaker after speaker from his half sister, Maya Soetero. to the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro; to the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, praised the importance of Head Start. Maya related that President Obama said he has made sure more of our youngest children have the stable foundation it provides.

This 47-year old program has not produced the long-term expected results.  In 2010 an exhaustive study of 5000 Head Start students was done by the US Department of Health and Human Services. It found the advantages of the Head Start program disappeared by the end of the first grade except for vocabulary. This does not sound like the superlative results that the politicians proclaim when they are voting for increases in the program.

This $7.3 billion program for nearly one million students is not accomplishing its educational mission. When these students are placed in public school classrooms they are no better equipped to compete than if they did not have the Head Start experience.

Anyone who does not support Head Start is supposedly a person against giving a helping hand to minorities to put them in a level playing field. Opponents of Head Start have at best been considered heartless and at worse, racist.  The biased media consistently says everyone that votes against Head Start wants to keep minorities down rather than use the taxpayers money in a more advantageous way for those same students.

The left has unyieldingly supported the expansion of this program regardless of its track record. It is as if a financial group gave unlimited funds to a business that had not turned a profit for 47 years. These funds to keep the program going when it shows no results are tax payer dollars, not private funds.

The almost religious allegiance to this program by the progressive establishment can be traced to the entrenchment of its power to pay back its constituency rather than its ability to positively affect the academic prospects of children.

It is time to stop using the Head Start Program as a slush fund to repay favors for political allegiance to a party and begin in earnest to improve the beginning academic fundamentals of preschool children entering elementary classes. Our children need to learn to pay attention, stand in line, follow directions, answer questions, make eye-contact, listen to others- especially adults before specific academic material can be mastered. The firm establishing of skills and core knowledge are essential building blocks for a child to be successful on the next academic level.

The Head Start Program’s curriculum should be driven by improving academic educational outcomes of students not, by appeasing powerful community leaders and politicians. The question that has to be asked is, “do the curriculum activities enhance the student’s ability to do well in elementary school or not?” When the answer is a significant “Yes”, Head Start will be a credible program. It is not.

The cost per student for Head Start is rapidly rising. Giving direct tax credit or vouchers to families that meet the program’s qualifications would significantly and effectively reduce the cost of the program. This would allow private educational programs to compete for the federal dollars.  This would promote an increase in student achievement.


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