President Obama announced a $750 million plan for early education at the White House today, justifying the spending by citing the success of a single half-century old program.
“Today, my Council of Economic Advisers is putting out a report showing that for every dollar we invest now, we can save more than eight dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, increasing earnings, reducing violent crime,” Obama said in the South Court Auditorium.
The CEA report Obama mentioned does indeed cite research showing that, “for every dollar spent on the Perry Preschool program, the benefits totaled $7 to $10, with a baseline estimate of $8.60.”
But the Perry Preschool Project was a single study that tracked just 128 children in just Ypsilanti, Michigan more than 50 years ago! The track record for other preschool programs is far more mixed and the most scientific studies of the federal government’s own Head Start program show the spending is largely wasted.