L. Neil Smith's
Number 233, August 10, 2003


Repeal—Not Reform—Head Start
by Todd Andrew Barnett

Special to TLE

Isn't everyone—from the National Head Start Association to the National Organization for Women—out of their minds for urging all Americans to "save" and "reform" the federal government's Head Start program (founded in 1965), which is a federally and state-subsidized extension of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Administration of Children and Families Division?

That's the mentality of both NOW's politically correct feminists and the welfare state-loving NHSA supporters, who are, as of late, objecting to a new legislation pending in Congress, which is H.R. 2210—also known as The School Readiness Act of 2003. This new bill, if passed by both Houses and signed into law by President Bush, is purported by conservative Republicans to improve the program's education standards, constrict its instructor requirements, and disperse its national controls and operations to the states. In other words, the conservative collectivists want the program to play a bigger role than it already has been doing for the past few decades —a role such as offering services, which teach children about nutrition (snacks) and health (brushing their teeth, etc.). They primarily want the program to be hand delivered to the states, so that the states could be in charge of hiring "qualified" instructors to teach children about words, sounds, and shapes.

The PC feminists at NOW and the welfare state worshippers at the NHSA are condemning this latest legislative action, considering that many of them claim the Bush administration and the Republican-dominated Congress is playing the welfare card—the accusation of welfare discrimination—at the expense of single, impoverished mothers who are on the welfare dole. They also accuse the GOP of underfunding the federal program, claiming that, if the states were to handle their own instructor standards, the program "would be undermined."

These claims are widely reflected in NOW's July 9th press release and the NHSA's July 25th press release. For all intents and purposes the PC feminists and the welfare state worshippers, in unison, are accusing the GOP of "dismantling" the program, claiming that the bill would result in a "downward spiral in funding and quality" and the "trashing" of one of the "most successful" programs of the Great Society era. That's interesting, considering that the Republicans have made it crystal clear that they were not putting the program out of its misery but instead were trying to "reform" and "save" it. They say that the updated program needs, according to Yahoo News, "a greater focus on literacy."

Bush, before students at a Maryland elementary school, said, "Governors around the ... country have said, look, give us the flexibility to be able to dovetail the Head Start program into our preschool programs."

Rick Hess, an education analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is one of a few conservative collectivists who acknowledges that the program hardly does enough for impoverished children and says that the program needs to center on academics. "Does it help? Yes," he said. "Is it accomplishing all it should? No."

House Democrats are dissatisfied with the proposed reform. Even the Congressional Black Caucus has openly objected to the plan, vowing to fight it tooth and nail. Congressman George Miller, a Democrat from California, said that the new "reform" would kill Head Start. "The president's plan would bring about the demise of one of the best ... early childhood programs," he quipped.

Janice Santos, an executive director of a Head Start institution in Massachusetts and a board member of the NHSA, takes issue with President Bush's claim of a lack of attention on literacy in Head Start. "I find it curious that this reauthorization has sparked such an issue of literacy," commented Santos. "This may be a new focus for some of the people in this room, but it's not for Head Start."

It is painfully clear that the Bush proposal will not defund Head Start or even abolish it, but rather preserve this welfare-mongering, socialist machination by merely tinkering it with a futile "reform" which simply does not abolish the federal government's role in the lives of women and their children. It's not even a real reform. Instead, this typical GOP "reform" is all but a directive to mandate states to become stricter in its methods to look after neglected kids by reducing hugging and levying more discipline.

The truth is that Head Start is a glorified subsidized day care service for single welfare mothers who wish to abdicate their responsibilities to their children—a sign indicating that the welfare state is even worse in today's political, cultural, and social climate than previously thought. Nevertheless, should that be a surprise to anyone at all? Considering that the rightists have long since abandoned their pledge to abolish the welfare state and embrace it just as fiercely as the politically and sexually correct leftists do, it's no wonder that the conservative movement has become its own worst enemy. Incidentally, the collectivists in the conservative camp have not budged an inch to eliminate political and sexual correctness sired by the government and its supporters (that includes their leftist counterparts) and to repeal all laws and regulations encouraging and fueling both mindsets.

Perhaps Head Start's long-time advocates, who defend the program's efficacy, should have taken notice of the June 6th report issued by the agency, in which it states the following:

"Head Start is not doing enough to enhance the language, pre-reading, and pre-mathematics knowledge and skills that we know are important for school readiness. The knowledge and skill levels of young children entering Head Start are far below national averages. Children graduating from Head Start remain far behind the typical U.S. child. We know also that all disadvantaged children who need high quality early educational instruction are not in Head Start. Some are in pre-kindergarten programs, others are in child-care settings, and still others are at home with parents."

It goes onto say, "Head Start is not fully achieving its stated purpose of promoting school readiness. Indeed, these low-income children continue to perform significantly below their more advantaged peers in reading and mathematics once they enter school."

This is what is truly frustrating about the service. It has not accomplished what it set out to do in the first place, and yet its supporters, who may as well be considered mouthpieces for the government regardless of which side of the aisle they're on, refuse to declare failure. They don't want to acknowledge that this so- called "Great Society jewel" of theirs has injected and beget collectivism and tribalism into the minds of our impoverished children and has animated mothers to both raise them out of wedlock and to foolishly discard their responsibilities as mothers, thereby allowing them to become unfit single parents. This is exactly what the welfare system has done to destitute single parent families: it's sired a generation of irresponsible single mothers who push the father out of the picture. When they want to shirk their parental duties to provide for their kids' welfare, they drop their children off on the doorsteps of the state.

Considering that this tax-funded babysitting service has not improved our children's learning and cognitive skills in the last 38 years of its existence, it's not a shock that the program has embarrassingly become a tragic epitome of an inherently-defective socialist mechanism.

Bush wants to hike the program's annual spending budget of $50 billion by another $100 billion, but the truth is—this is not the business of the government. Clearly, if the Founders were alive today, they would scream bloody murder at the current state of the country, along with their discovery of this program in existence. They would argue that creating a class system compromising single dirt-poor women who are less interested in their maternal instincts during the day and with no solvent family structure in place in our society would lead to a downfall of the family. More importantly— they would be in the right, as it has already happened.

Darcy Olsen, a former education analyst at the CATO Institute and now president of the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, wrote and published a critique of the Head Start program in 2000, in which she found that the program has neither averted poverty nor has it improved the lives of its enrolled participants. "Clearly Head Start has not stopped poverty in its tracks," she writes. "Not surprisingly, the program's goals have become less ambitious over time. Head Start now has the overall goal of "increasing the school readiness of young children in low-income families," according to the Head Start bureau. Yet studies show that Head Start has not been able to meet even this boiled-down expectation."

Furthermore, she writes, "In 1985 the Department of Health and Human Services undertook the first meta-analysis of Head Start research and shook the establishment with its dire findings: 'In the long run, cognitive and socioemotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start.' In other words, Head Start was a false start—the net gain to children was zero."

The Head Start program, whether or not one chooses to acknowledge, has become a dismal failure and an abject embarrassment and flies in the face of traditional family values, which conservatives have purported to champion for years. But this service is anti-family and anti-parent, no matter what its propagandists and dogmatists say. It merely serves to break up the family unit—not to bring it together.

Let's do the right thing by repealing—not reforming—Head Start. It's time to call for an end to this statist practice and return control of children back to parents where it belongs.

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