May 4 2012
Julia’s Success Story Begins with Head Start?
Carrie L. Lukas
The Obama campaign’s now infamous Internet slide show, The Life of Julia, helps Americans appreciate how government programs help women pursue happiness through a life of government dependency. Yuval Levin and Michael Walsh have already taken it apart for its Orwellian view of women as drones of the state.
Yet there’s another aspect of the Julia presentation that deserves ridicule. According to the Obama campaign’s narrative, our heroine, Julia, can credit all of her “success” to enrolling in Head Start as a three year old, which allowed her to “start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.” Thankfully Julia didn’t grow up in a Romney-Ryan world, where the Head Start program would have received a 20 percent cut.
Perhaps it’s too much to ask the campaign whizzes who created the “Life of Julia” slideshow to consult the empirical research before creating their anti-Romney narrative. But one would think that someone in the Obama domestic-policy team might have thought twice about leading with Head Start as an example of government launching greatness.
There is scant evidence showing that Head Start helps prepare students for school. In 2010, a long-overdue Congressionally mandated empirical evaluation of the Head Start program found that kids who had attended Head Start experienced essentially no lasting benefits compared to their peers who did not enroll in the federal preschool program. That is to say, after taxpayers spend $15,000 to send Julia to preschool for two years, on average, she will be no better off than her neighbor who isn’t in Head Start.
In September, the Obama administration delayed the release of a follow-up study that further evaluates how Head Start students compare to their peers by the end of third grade. This study, which is the most comprehensive analysis of a preschool program in history, will test the liberal hypothesis that a dollar invested in early-childhood education would yield a ten-to-one return.
One suspects that if the third-grade study supported that thesis, we’d have seen the results by now.
This latest tactic in the administration’s “War on Women” campaign is frankly insulting in its implication that women all need constant government help to get from the cradle to the grave. The truth is that all this “help” is often at best useless (as with Head Start), and, more often, damaging by contributing to our metastasizing government, which will be a growing burden on Julia, her son “Zachary,” and the rest of us.