Law Enforcement Officials Support Pre-K. Why? Because They Understand The Link Between Crime And Education

To start, we’re going to let this RJ Letter To The Editor speak for itself:

FROM OUR READERS

To the editor:

While education experts may debate the points made in your Dec. 9 editorial (“Pre-K takeaway”), we want to point out a proven fact that the article did not include: Expanding quality preschool is one of the best tools we have for reducing future crime.

We say this as three Nevada law enforcement leaders who recently met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to encourage his support for the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. During that meeting, we discussed studies that followed children who participated in preschool programs in Illinois and Michigan for decades into their adult lives. Researchers found they were far less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system and far more likely to graduate from high school.

This research is well-detailed in a report, “I’m the Guy You Pay Later,” recently released by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (www.fightcrime.org), a nonpartisan organization of 5,000 sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors. As members of the organization, we strongly support a new state-federal partnership to expand quality preschool to support kids today and lower crime in years to come.

Michael Haley, Ken Furlong and Neil Rombardo

RENO/CARSON CITY

The writers are, respectively, the Washoe County sheriff, the Carson City sheriff and the Carson City district attorney.

The report these law enforcement officials reference, “I’m The Guy You Pay Later“, is a fantastic primer on understanding not only the links between crime and education, but the sizable financial savings that can be achieved if we invest in high quality, targeted pre-k programs. Apart from the incredible bottom line economic impact  such an investment would have by increasing the numbers of the high school graduates in Nevada, one of the most striking aspects of the report is the fact that it frames education investment as a proactive crime-fighting tool, and rightly. Despite advances in crime prevention and police response, we still spend an incredible amount of our resources on incarceration; in fact, there are over 2 million American adults in local, state, and federal penitentiaries at a cost of $75 billion annually. Law enforcement has a better idea for that annual $75 billion:

[N]ow we are at a key fork in the road: policymakers nationwide have an outstanding opportunity to bring quality preschool to low- and moderate-income children in America. The cost of the state-federal partnership that will make this possible is $75 billion over 10 years – a smart move when you consider the fact[s]. By one estimate, this 10-year investment in preschool will produce over 2 million additional high school graduates. And if we can reduce the number of young people who commit felonies and the number who are incarcerated by 10 percent each – roughly half the reduction achieved by the Chicago Child-Parent Center program – we can reduce the number of individuals who are locked up by 200,000 each year. The resulting savings – $75 billion over the 10-year investment – could pay the federal costs of the preschool program.

So what would such a partnership look like in Nevada? To be perfectly honest, we don’t have the answer to that – many details would need to be ironed out, low income community would need to be engaged and committed on a deep level, and the programs created would need to be of the highest quality.

But one fact is beyond dispute – either we pay for high quality, targeted pre-k now, or we’ll pay far more for incarceration later. The choice is ours.