Rep. Joe Walsh Blasts Obama's $1B for Head Start

Less than a week after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeated President Obama’s insistence that Project Head Start remain untouched in the budget process, one of the leading House critics took sharp issue with the President’s top spokesman over the 46-year-old Great Society program for preschoolers.

In challenging Carney’s response to HUMAN EVENTS last Monday that “the President remains committed to funding Head Start because he believes it is vital” and that “when we’re making budget choices … that’s a choice we have to make to fund that program,” freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R.-Ill.) noted that funding for Head Start has grown steadily under past administrations and actually increased under the Obama-backed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus package) in 2009.

In addition, Walsh told HUMAN EVENTS, when Democrats were in control of Congress, efforts to amend past appropriations measures that would have permitted states to take over administration of the federal education program for preschoolers were thwarted.

“And after all the funding and attempts to reform Head Start, the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Accountability Office and numerous independent studies have determined that there is substantial waste in Head Start,” Walsh told us, citing the 2010 studies by the two government offices that have been highlighted in HUMAN EVENTS that gave less-than-stellar marks to Head Start’s results in performance and management.

“The results don’t at all support major government investment, let alone the nearly $1 billion the President is so adamant about adding to Head Start funding,” added Walsh, himself a former schoolteacher and social worker.  

When HUMAN EVENTS asked whether the President was familiar with the Head Start studies under his own Health and Human Services and General Accountability Office during the White House briefing last week, Carney simply said:  “I haven’t had a discussion with him about analysis of this particular program.  If you’re telling me that a particular program may not be run perfectly or may have problems with it, that may or may not be true.”

As a study by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) earlier this year clearly points out, Head Start is by no means financially strapped, in spite of the critical assessments it received in 2010.  According to the CRS study, “The FY2012 President’s Budget, released on February 14, 2011, requests $8.1 billion for Head Start for FY2012, an increase of roughly $866 million over the program’s FY2010 funding level of $7.2 billion”  The same study noted that the program expanded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5), which appropriated $2.1 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start in FY2009.”

In ’07, Rep. Tom Price (R.-Ga.) offered legislation long championed by the Bush administration that would propose state pilot projects for up to eight states to administer Head Start, but it failed in committee by a vote of 18 to 27.  Later, the proposal to establish a demonstration program allowing eight states to administer the Head Start program was again offered as an amendment on the House floor by Price, but failed 165 to 254.

“Times are tough, we need to cut government spending, everything should be put on the table, and a real dispassionate cost benefit analysis of every government program needs to be conducted to determine worth and value,” said Walsh, “and Head Start should be near the top of the list.”