That’s the assessment from our Governor here in Rhode Island — that Head Start for preschoolers is “the biggest waste of federal money.” A bigger waste of money than, say, building a highway and not testing the concrete? A bigger waste of money than starting an unnecessary trillion dollar war? A bigger waste of money than giving more and bigger tax breaks to the richest 2% of the state’s population?
Speaking less rhetorically and more from experience, I have seen more than one child literally saved by their enrollment in Head Start. I am thinking specifically of a child with teeth rotting out of her head and no one would have done anything about it if the Head Start social worker hadn’t made sure that child got medical and dental care. This is just one rather extreme example — there are so many ways in which problems recognized and addressed in Head Start improve a child’s chances for a better future.
Show me empirical evidence that Head Start has done anything. I think it’s been the biggest waste of money, frankly. What Head Start needs to do is get into the early education business, which is teach kids vocabulary and things they need early on. Head Start, I think, is the biggest waste of federal money. What I’ve said, if you want to do early childhood education, particularly in urban areas, get Head Start integrated into what we’re trying to do with kids. If you want empirical evidence that a program has been a dismal failure, I’d put Head Start at the top of the list. That doesn’t say it can’t be changed or morphed into something that could be effective, but as it is I think it’s totally ineffective.
While Head Start, along with countless other programs, could doubtlessly be improved, calling the program the “biggest waste of federal money” is an incredible misrepresentation of reality. In a just world, there would need to be some recompense for these wrong words. If it were up to me, the Governor would now be required to spend the next 6 months working a full 40-hour week in a Head Start classroom. Then he could review his statement above and see if he would like to make any modifications.