Is the government spending wisely on education? Research says no.

EDUCATION | The New York Times profiles the work of James Heckman, a leading economist who studies human development. Heckman has done extensive research on the equity gap by comparing the cognitive performance of high and low-income students at various ages. The results illuminate the importance of early childhood education:

[T]he difference in cognitive performance was just as big at age 18 as it had been at age 3.

“The gap is there before kids walk into kindergarten,” Mr. Heckman told me. “School neither increases nor reduces it.”

If education is supposed to help redress inequities at birth and improve the lot of disadvantaged children as they grow up, it is not doing its job.

What’s especially problematic is the percentage of total education funding that the government allocates to early childhood. As the chart to the right shows, we rank almost at the bottom of the international community in this category. (NYT, 4/2)

– As of last month, D.C. police have picked up 3,260 truant students during this academic year. How many are repeat offenders? Nobody knows, because DCPS doesn’t keep track. (GGW, 4/3)

POVERTY | The U.S. is experiencing the highest poverty rate since the 1960s, with 50 million Americans – that’s one in six – living below the poverty line. Here’s a look at how sequestration is making this terrible and embarrassing reality even worse. (WaPo, 4/3)

GIVING | The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has announced grant awards totaling $203,600 to nine local nonprofits. The recipients of the 2013 Good Neighbor Grants are focused on K-12 education, college access, and visual and performing arts education for students from low- to moderate-income families. [Read more.]

– Arlington has scrapped plans to reduce its standards for child-care quality and safety. (WaPo, 4/2)

– Many local students are on spring break this week, but their experiences vary greatly based on their families’ wealth. Judith Sandalow writes about the connection between school vacations and the achievement gap – and the importance of breaking it. (HuffPo, 3/29)

Related: D.C. schools use spring break to teach students through travel (WaPo, 3/31)

TRANSIT | The Montgomery County Council has thrown another $7.5 million at the Silver Spring Transit Center, which apparently will have very little effect on fixing the massive structural problems plaguing it. (WaPo, 4/2) Hey, there’s a broken street lamp on my block. Give me $7.5 million and I’ll be more than happy to not fix it!

BUGS | This might tick you off, but the District has ranked as the fifth worst city for pest problems – and first for Ixodoidea. And since I don’t think that bugs respect borders, this probably has implications for suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, too. (WTOP, 4/2)

Here’s an archaeological find to tickle the imagination – Pluto’s Gate, or the gate to hell. The site was written about in classical literature, but Italian scientists believe that they have found the actual location.

Also, writing about spring break and the underworld led my mind to this classic song. So good!