Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, caused a stir last week by announcing a major philanthropic initiative that will devote $2 billion to address homelessness and education. Called the Day One Fund, the project has two priorities: funding existing nonprofits that serve homeless families, and creating a network of new, nonprofit preschools in low-income communities.
Two billion dollars is an enormous amount of money, enough to transform many lives. The good that Bezos will do is commendable. Unfortunately, he might achieve a lot less than he could.
By starting out already committed to two causes, Bezos undermines his fund’s ability to answer the question he launched it with: “Where are the opportunities to make things better?”
We’ve been trying for a long time to do early childhood education that produces lasting results for kids. The earliest attempt in the US was Head Start, the federally funded early childhood education program for low-income families, which has been running since the 1960s. There have been some studies with promising results, but there have also been many that struggle to detect any effect size.
On the pessimistic side, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have found that it barely improves outcomes for kids — and the gains don’t last, typically evaporating by first or second grade. A 2010 study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that “averaging across all children, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade.”
I am not surprised by those results. Nor should you be.
Government programs are inherently wasteful. There is no incentive to perform. Ironically, there is incentive to not perform, simply to get more funding.
Graft abounds. So does public union inefficiency.
Hire a bunch of bad teachers and it is damn impossible to get rid of them because of union rules.
Inability to Think
Anyone comparing government slush funds to private enterprise clearly cannot think.
Instead of bitching at Bezos, we ought to be insisting that Head Start and other government programs be entirely shut down as ineffective!
Mike "Mish" Shedlock