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‘Head Start’: The $166 Billion Fed Ed Failure

It's time for President Obama to prove that he will “eliminate programs that don’t work” — and not let the ones that do work die.

Andrew J. Coulson


January 22, 2010 - 12:03 am
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But President Obama and Congress have already had a golden opportunity to show that they will heed their own scientific evidence, supporting what works and what is efficient: the D.C. private school voucher program. The latest Department of Education study revealed that after attending private schools for three years, voucher-receiving students were reading more than two grade levels ahead of the randomized control group who had remained in public schools. What’s more, the average voucher value was a mere $6,600, compared to D.C. per-pupil education spending of over $28,000.

What did Congress do to the program that has proven itself dramatically more effective and many times more efficient than D.C.’s public system? They decided to sunset its funding, effectively killing it. What did President Obama do to save it? Nothing. He let it die despite having previously said that “if there was any argument for vouchers it was, ‘Let’s see if the experiment works.’ And if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what’s best for kids.”

Or not.

There are only two explanations for the contradiction between the president’s talk and the president’s walk on education: a lack of courage or a lack of integrity. Either he is afraid to stand up to the public school employee unions who despise educational choice and relentlessly demand more money for their members, or he never really cared “what’s best for kids” or intended to “eliminate programs that don’t work.”

Only the president himself knows which it is. Neither explanation is of much solace to the children and taxpayers who must live with his decisions … at least until the next election.

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Andrew J. Coulson is the director of Cato's Center for Educational Freedom and the author of Market Education: The Unknown History.
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