Later surveys showed similarly dismal results. By 1987, even the program's founder, Yale psychologist Edward F. Zigler, declined to claim educational benefits for the program. But as the Thernstroms concluded, "Everyone could agree that poverty was hard on blameless children, so any federal effort purporting to help them was difficult to attack without seeming mean-spirited."
That remains true, as witness Mr. Dionne.
A just-released study by the Department of Health and Human Services delivers incredibly harsh news about Head Start. A large, nationwide survey of 4,600 preschoolers who were randomly assigned to either the Head Start (experimental group) or no program (control group) were studied on 114 different measures ranging from academic skills to social-emotional development, to health status. The study found no statistically relevant effects from the Head Start program by the end of first grade.
If a study falls in the forest and the major news organizations fail to report it, does it make a sound? Hardly a whimper. A few conservative websites like Heritage, CATO, and the Independent Women's Forum noted the results, but elsewhere, all was silence.
Or, not silence actually, complete denial. President Obama had boosted funding for Head Start from $6.8 billion in 2008 to $9.2 billion in 2009. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan support even greater "investments" in the failed program in the future. Study? What study?
According to Douglas Besharov of the University of Maryland, it costs $22,600 annually to keep a child in a year-round Head Start program. Typical preschools run about $9,500. But the price simply doesn't matter. The lack of results doesn't matter. The only thing that seems to matter is that liberals are able to preen about their compassion -- oh, yes, and condemn anyone not impervious to evidence as heartless.