Union County State's Attorney's Office

Law Enforcement Leaders Say Preschool Reduces Violent Crime, Saves Millions in Education Costs

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 9, 2011

Contact: Sally Puleo, spuleo@fightcrime.org

Cell: 630-677-8673

 

Law Enforcement Leaders Say Preschool Reduces Violent Crime, Saves Millions in Education Costs

Sheriff, police chiefs, state’s attorneys call on state lawmakers to make high-quality early learning programs a top priority

 

Springfield, IL—(March 9, 2011) Law enforcement leaders from across Illinois gathered in Springfield today to meet with legislative leaders and call on lawmakers to make the state’s preschool program a top priority in next year’s budget.

 

At a press conference Morgan County Sheriff Randy Duvendack, Algonquin Police Chief Russ Laine, Ogle County State’s Attorney Ben Roe and Channahon Police Chief Joe Pena called on the state law makers to restore cuts made to the state’s Preschool for All program and to address Illinois’ unpaid bills.

 

They were joined by Wabash County Sheriff Joe Keeling, Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds and others to release a report showing that investments in high-quality early learning programs not only reduce future crime over the long run but also save millions of dollars in the state’s education budget in the short term. The report says that increasing the availability of preschool can reduce the need for special education placements and other K-12 education expenses as children advance to later grades.

 

“In a challenging economic environment, we must look at which investments give us the most bang for our buck,” said Sheriff Keeling.  “Our report shows that high-quality early education cuts education costs and costs from crime.”

 

Delayed payments and budget cuts have forced many preschool programs to close or reduce available slots, causing thousands of children to lose preschool in the last 2 years. Law enforcement urged that the state Preschool for All program be funded at its FY09 level, and that lawmakers find a solution that will allow the state to make good on promised payments to programs.

 

“The years before kindergarten are critical,” said State’s Attorney Edmonds. “Kids not only benefit academically, but also learn social skills.  Not surprisingly, kids who attend high-quality preschool are much less likely to become involved in crime later.”

 

“They’re only four-years-old once. The preschool years are a singular opportunity. If children have access to quality early learning during that time, the benefits will follow kids far into their adult lives,” said State’s Attorney Roe. “Every month that goes by under these circumstances is a lost opportunity to change the trajectory of the lives of thousands of children.”

 

The report concludes that investments in voluntary high-quality early learning programs in Illinois can:

 

n  Save up to $200 million in K-through-12 education costs by lowering the number of children requiring special education services due to behavioral problems and developmental delays;

n  Save an additional $200 million in education costs by reducing the need for children to repeat grades and by helping kids learn more effectively;

n  Reduce violent crime and save taxpayers millions of dollars more by reducing costs for corrections, welfare and other government-funded services.

 

“On top of these short-term education savings, we know that over the long term the savings can total as much as $16 for every $1 spent on quality preschool- and most of that stems from reduced crime,” said Sheriff McCoy “These studies support what law enforcement already knows from experience. I know first hand that giving the youngest children a good early start in life can result in fewer of these kids becoming involved in crime later in life – which is a huge benefit to every taxpayer in Illinois,”

 

Among several studies cited in the report is a long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool that followed two groups of at-risk, low-income 3- and 4-year-olds, beginning in 1962.  One group attended the Perry Preschool Program. The other did not. The study found that children who did not attend the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders than children who did participate. By age 40, the kids who did not attend the program were twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes than those who participated.

 

The Perry preschool program also helped significantly reduce the need for special education. Children who attended the Perry program were 43 percent less likely to be placed in special education during their K-12 years.

 

Algonquin Police Chief Laine noted that quality early learning programs help build core learning and social skills among at-risk children at an early age. The result: fewer children who participate in quality early learning programs require special education in later years.

 

“Special education is necessary, but expensive,” said Sheriff Schneider “By investing in early learning and getting more kids ready to start school, we can reduce the number of children who require extra educational services – and save our school districts money in a tough economy, while also reducing crime over the long term.”

 

While the report noted that Illinois had taken steps to improve and expand early learning, only 30 percent of all Illinois three-year olds and 43 percent of all four-year-olds are served by publicly funded early learning programs.

 

Illinois spends nearly $2 billion a year on special education services, but invests only about $304 million a year on preschool programs, according to the report. The new analysis shows that if all children had access to quality early childhood programs, through a combination of funding from state and federal government, plus individual families, the state could save as much as $200 million in special education costs and an additional $200 million in savings from reductions in grade retention and kids learning more effectively. As a result, the total K-12 education savings could reach $400 million a year.

 

“Everything we do as law enforcement officials has to be in the best interests of public safety,” said Chief Pena. “Investing in high-quality early education will not only reduce crime, it will save taxpayer dollars and help make sure that all kids are ready to succeed in school.”

 

The law enforcement leaders also noted that increasing investments in high-quality early learning can add up to a total return on investment of as much as $16 per dollar spent over the long-term. These savings largely come from reduced crime, corrections as well as the educational savings.

 

The law enforcement members in attendance are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and violence survivors, with over 300 members in Illinois and over 5,000 members nationwide.

 

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Union County State's Attorney's Office