Report: Early education investment saves on crime, school costs
Officials point to study as reason to support reauthorization of federal programs
By Christopher Cadelago, UNION-TRIBUNE
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
EL CAJON — Local officials on Tuesday used a new law enforcement study on the relationship between better schooling and lower crime rates to call renewed attention to federal investment in early childhood education programs.
Regional results of a statewide analysis by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California were unveiled by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and El Cajon Chief Pat Sprecco at the Grossmont College Child Development Center.
The report says investment in early education saves much more down the line in reduced criminal justice and education costs. Specifically, the report says investment in programs such as preschool could reduce special education costs by 10 percent.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is a bipartisan anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and violence survivors. The organization is imploring policymakers to support provisions in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization that encourage states to incorporate early learning into the educational structure.
Hunter said it was his job to ensure that educators and local law enforcement receive the resources they need to perform their jobs.
“And I am convinced that early childhood education plays the biggest role and provides the biggest benefit — the biggest bang for that buck — that we’re looking for right now with this economy for American citizens,” he said.
“We have to catch kids young, and I would say No. 1 this is a parent’s responsibility. But in this age that we live in, in this world that we live in, things are different now: You have single-parent households, more now than we’ve probably ever had in our nation’s history. You have households where both parents work, sometimes multiple jobs. And that leaves our education system as kind of the last bastion, the last guardian for our nation’s children growing up.”
If preschool funding is cut, state and local schools would have to spend more on special education services and other K-12 costs, said Dumanis, who served five years on the juvenile court bench.
The report, Dumanis said, shows what she’s observed intuitively and anecdotally: at-risk children were 43% less likely to be placed in special education during their K-12 schooling if they received early training.
“By investing more in early learning, there are some very real taxpayer savings to be had in the area of public safety,” she said.
In San Diego County, more than $800 million is spent on special education services, but only $83 million went toward state and federally funded preschool that served 4-year-olds in 2010–11, according to the report. Total K-12 savings could reach $160 million annually because preschool can reduce grade retention and improve learning environments.
Just 26 percent of 4-year-olds and 15 percent of 3-year-olds were served by publicly funded preschool and Head Start. In nearly ever local budget statewide the largest line item is for public safety, Gore said. It costs the state about $50,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate, $35,000 in the county.
“This report shows that investment in very professional, well-targeted early education programs pays off in the long run, especially in the criminal justice system,” Gore said. “By the time kids reach kindergarten, they should be ready to learn. They should have those socialization skills, the literacy skills so they can hit the ground running.”
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CaseClosed2: I thought early education was nationwide. Years ago it was called preschool, and Headstart. Children who didn’t have parents to teach them at home, or even if they did, went to preschool and headstart and were given a head start to learning and when they entered kindergarten they were more advanced than if they had not attended preschool and headstart.
Experts say pregnant women should read to their unborn children, so if reading to them in the womb is necessary and gives unborn children an advantage, why stop there? Preschool also gives children a necessary advantage.