Tonight, the President will discuss early childhood education in his state of the union speech. And just last week, an extra $1 billion was thrown into the budget for early childhood education….

I jumped ahead to look at results for Head Start.  It was not rosy.  A 2010 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study of Head Start—the country’s largest government-sponsored preschool program—found that by 1st grade, economically disadvantaged students with access to Head Start demonstrated almost no greater cognitive or emotional development than demographically similar students without access…..

Will this become the new Race To The Top educational throw-away?   It very well could.

As an advocate of early childhood education, the idea of closing the achievement gap by increasing the vocabulary of economically deprived students of the future makes perfect sense.  However, as mentioned in detail in the above report, the government does not have a good track record in its administration of that endeavor…

What’s the point of Head Start if those children have no vocabulary jump over students who didn’t go to Head Start?

Yes. really.

It can be fixed.  And should be this legislative session.   The endemic problem is the role being played by government in this case.   Yes, the problems plaguing government in general, also plague government’s education of very young children.

Government-funded prekindergarten has failed to deliver consistent results because grants are distributed from federal and state governments to early-childhood education programs, which ends up holding providers accountable to bureaucracies rather than to students and their families…

Head Start providers seeking federal funding are assessed for compliance with hundreds of arcane procedural regulations.  Four examples…

  • “a variety of food is served which broadens each child’s food experiences.” (Try giving okra to a 3 year old)   Does forcing okra make a child into a better student?
  • All Early Head Start and Head Start grantee and delegate agencies must use funds from USDA Food and Consumer Services Child Nutrition Programs as the primary source of payment for meal services.  Thereby one’s Head Start Unit needs to be run as an agricultural processing plant, and not a school.
  • For 3- to 5-year-olds in center-based settings, the quantities and kinds of food served must conform to recommended serving sizes and minimum standards for meal patterns recommended in the USDA meal pattern or nutrient standard menu planning requirements outlined in 7 CFR parts 210, 220, and 226.
  • Most state’s grant process for early-childhood education involved conflicts of interest and regularly provided funding for programs with empty seats.

At issue here is that those running Head Start are at the beck and call of the USDA Food and  parents who have concerns are  interruptions and distractions.

A better method would be to have the money follow the student, a system that allocates a certain amount of funding for each child, allowing families to “carry” that money to their provider of choice. Funding would be limited to early-childhood education providers who do not charge tuition.

The student allocation formula should also provide additional per-pupil funds for children whose education is more expensive, such as those who live in extreme poverty and those with disabilities.

Of course the premise behind this move, is that he families of those children are better served by being in control of their children’s early education,  as opposed to well meaning bureaucracies.  In this scenario, if programs were to risk losing funding because of student flight, imagine how much greater their incentive would be to win those students back.

San Francisco was able to raise it’s proficient levels from 35 to 56 in language, and from 37 to 62 in math, by employing this method of funding.

The major problem with Common Core was that its money was scarfed by Wall Street into programs benefiting investors.  That problem needs to be eliminated from the get-go, if we start investing in pre-K education…..