President Obama announced a $750 million plan for early education at the White House today, justifying the spending by citing the success of a single half-century old program.
"Today, my Council of Economic Advisers is putting out a report showing that for every dollar we invest now, we can save more than eight dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, increasing earnings, reducing violent crime," Obama said in the South Court Auditorium.
The CEA report Obama mentioned does indeed cite research showing that, "for every dollar spent on the Perry Preschool program, the benefits totaled $7 to $10, with a baseline estimate of $8.60."
But the Perry Preschool Project was a single study that tracked just 128 children in just Ypsilanti, Michigan more than 50 years ago! The track record for other preschool programs is far more mixed and the most scientific studies of the federal government's own Head Start program show the spending is largely wasted.
The Department of Health and Human Services even conducted its own study of more than 5,000 children from across the country. That study found that the federal Head Start program had little to no statistically measurable effects on any measure of cognitive ability, including reading, language, and math ability. On a few measures, the study even found that access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.
"The Obama administration’s government preschool proposal, which will cost $75 billion over the next 10 years if implemented, is far more likely to produce results akin to the failed federal Head Start program than any high quality preschool program," The Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke told Townhall. "Taxpayers have spent $180 billion on Head Start since it was enacted in 1965, and HHS reported in its scientifically rigorous evaluation of the program that Head Start had little to no impact on children’s cognitive abilities, their health, their social-emotional well-being, or their parents’ parenting practices."