February 13, 2013 Print

President Obama Calls for Early Learning Spending

In the “State of the Union Address,” President Obama called for more federal spending on early learning programs.

"Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America." . . . "Let’s give our kids that chance."

Currently, the federal government spends roughly $8 billion on “Head Start” and another $10 billion for subsidized child care. How much more the president thinks should be spent is not specified.

A government with a trillion dollar deficit and a $14 trillion dollar debt could help young children face a brighter future by not saddling them with financial obligations.

Leaving this aside for a moment, the announcement reflects poor judgment for a couple of reasons.

First, why does this have to be done by the federal government? Are they any smarter, richer or better organized than states? Of course not. There is nothing the federal government can do in early learning that states cannot do.

Well, I take that back. The federal government can take money from one state and give it to another and can take money from our children and grandchildren to spend on government programs of today.

Second, a new federal report shows that the academic effects of federally-funded early learning are minimal to non-existent:

Education Week, “Head Start Advantages Mostly Gone By Third Grade” 12/21/2012

US Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation, “Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study: Final Report” 12/21/2012

Finally, I'm always annoyed when a spokesman for the government describes the children in this land as "our kids." We should not invite families to think that someone else--especially not the government--is responsible for a child. Sure, families need help, advice and sometimes even resources. But let's not deceive ourselves into thinking that "the village” somehow has responsibility.


Jami Lund

Senior Policy Analyst

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