Education
President Barack Obama greets students and other attendees after speaking at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 27, 2012. Jewel Samad/Getty Images. President Barack Obama greets students and other attendees after speaking at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 27, 2012. Jewel Samad/Getty Images.  

Obama pitches federal childcare, downplays science, cost

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is proposing a new federal childcare service for lower-middle class American mothers, despite a comprehensive 2010 government study that showed the $8 billion per year Head Start system for poor kids produced minimal educational benefits.

The proposed childcare program — which may cost $10 billion per year — may boost the president’s broader campaign to win a House majority in the 2014 mid-term election by spurring turnout among suburban Democratic-leaning women and lower-income voters.

Conservatives tout good parenting as a cheaper, non-political and better alternative.

“Politicians like President Obama are eager to replace families with expensive and intrusive government programs, which … have less influence on a child’s well-being than an institution that costs taxpayers nothing: a married mom and dad,” read a Feb. 14 statement from the Family Research Council.

“If President Obama gets away with it, next thing you know, government officials will be swinging by the hospital nursery to pick up our newborns!” the statement continued.

The program for all four year olds is being touted as a responsible, cost-saving measure by White House officials.

“The metrics show that this is the kind of thing you can’t afford not to do,” Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House’s domestic policy council.

Meanwhile, a decade-long study by the federal government concluded that Head Start provided only “only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of 1st grade.”

The study, titled “Head Start Impact Study Final Report,” tracked 5,000 white, Hispanic and African-American kids from age three or four until the end of first grade. The children — all of whom were being raised by single parents or by families earning incomes below the poverty level — were compared to others who raised by the their parents or sent to other daycare centers.

The study was released in January 2010, and was conducted by a series of research groups that are frequently hired by the federal government to weight impact of programs and policies. The groups included Westat, the Urban Institute, Abt Associates and Chesapeake Research Associates.

Mainstream advocates highlighted the report’s negative assessment.

“For the four-year-old cohort, access to Head Start had a beneficial effect on only two outcomes (1.8 percent) out of 112 measures,” read a response by the Heritage Foundation. “For the three-year-old cohort, access to Head Start had one harmful impact (0.9 percent) and five (4.5 percent) beneficial impacts out of 112 measures,” it added.