Some of the media is finally expressing real frustration that the Administration has so wholly reneged on its pledge for a transparent health care negotiation process. Any reporter interested in connecting the dots should take a look at that the Administration has been doing with Head Start. They’ll find more than a lack of transparency, but a full-fledged cover up.

Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation (full disclosure, he’s my brother) describes how much the federal government has committed to this program, which subsidizes preschool for low-income kids:

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson created Head Start, the first national preschool and childcare program serving low-income children. Nearly 45 years later, the federal government has spent more than $100 billion on it. With annual funding of approximately $7 billion, Head Start currently spends at least $7,300 annually on each of the 900,000 low-income children served.

For more than a decade, Congress has been trying to figure out whether Head Start has provided lasting benefits for participating children.

Dan details several studies that examined data about the program’s effectiveness, all of which failed to address the central question: do Head Start participants enjoy long-term benefits? So HHS decided to conduct a study that addressed that specific point. Dan explains:

This question would be addressed by future evaluations of the performance of former Head Start students and their peers through the end of first grade and third grade. Data collection for the initial study of first graders’ progress was completed in the spring of 2006.

Three years have now passed. According to the HHS Web site, this project was supposed to be completed by March 2009. But the findings of the congressionally-mandated evaluation have never been made public.

One can’t help but wonder: What’s causing the delay? Former HHS officials have told me that they were briefed on the results of the first-grade evaluation in 2008. They report that the evaluation found that, overall, Head Start participants experienced zero lasting benefits compared to their non-Head Start peers by the end of first grade. These officials expressed little surprise that the report’s release had been delayed.

Is the Department of HHS burying a damaging study? Perhaps there’s a good explanation for the delay. But without raising the question, we won’t know the answer. Before taxpayers “invest” another $8 billion in another preschool program, we deserve to know whether programs like Head Start are, indeed, making a lasting difference.

So surprise, surprise, a study shows that a government program isn’t doing what it’s supposed to so the agency that oversees the program is keeping that data from the public.

As I wrote in this policy brief, claims about the benefits of government subsidized preschool have always rested on shaky data. It isn’t just the federal government that is pouring money into such programs, but cash-strapped states. Is this really the investment taxpayers want to make? We will never know because citizens aren’t getting all the facts.

The press shouldn’t let up on this very un-transparent Administration and should demand that the public be given all the information about how their tax dollars are being used-and wasted.