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Lansing Area Law Enforcement Leaders Say Early Childhood Programs Pay Off

Crime fighters release new report showing early education cuts crime, saves taxpayers dollars


Contact:  K.P. Pelleran, [email protected]org

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Lansing, MI (Monday, April 4, 2011)-Noting that Michigan taxpayers are spending nearly $2 billion a year on corrections, local law enforcement leaders were joined today by the Ingham Great Start Collaborative(GSC) as they called on state and federal lawmakers to support high-quality early education as a critical strategy to reduce crime, lower prison costs, and save taxpayers money. The law enforcement leaders say they oppose cuts to early education and support efforts to strengthen and improve current programs.

Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth, Lansing Township Police Chief Kay Hoffman, violence survivor Kathy Cole, and Chief (ret.) Milton L. Scales signaled their support for early learning during a visit to an area preschool where they released a new research brief and shared the value of early childhood education with lawmakers. The law enforcement leaders then read to children in the early learning program.

According to its national president David Kass, who was on hand to give opening remarks at the news event, the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is sponsoring 13 similar events across Michigan and in 17 other states across the country as part of a law enforcement campaign to promote investments in high-quality early childhood education.

Along with area lawmakers, and representatives of the GSC, other participants included Ivan Love, Executive Director, Capital Area Community Services (CACS), Deb Hill, Education Coordinator, CACS Head Start, and Robin Bozek, Director, Michigan Head Start Association.

Citing a new research brief called “Pay Now or Pay Much More Later,” the law enforcement leaders said that investing in high-quality early care and education can help at-risk children in Michigan succeed. This can significantly reduce the likelihood that they will commit crimes, and save taxpayer dollars from reduced prison costs.

While overall crime rates are decreasing in many jurisdictions, Michigan still spent nearly $2 billion in 2010 on corrections with more than 45,000 adults locked up in either state or federal prisons on the first day of 2010. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Michigan’s corrections spending was 3.5 times HIGHER from 1982 to 2008.

Violence survivor Kathy Cole, a state co-chairperson of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan, said, “When we close the gap in needed services for our most vulnerable citizens-our children-we will be more likely to see them graduate instead of behind bars in an orange jumpsuit.”

Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth, an executive committee member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan, said, “We’re talking about dollars and common sense. We know how expensive it is when someone becomes a career criminal. If getting these kids access to early learning can help us avoid those enormous costs, then we need to make sure they have that opportunity today.”

A long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool found that at-risk children who did not participate in the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did attend. The children who did not attend were 86 percent more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison by the age of 40.

Chief (ret.) Milton L. Scales, a national committee member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said, “With the tremendous research that shows kids with high-quality preschool are less likely to be imprisoned as adults, we urge state lawmakers to maintain funding for these critical programs, or we’ll pay more for corrections later on.”

Michigan has spaces for more than 28,000 4-year-olds in its state-funded preschool program, the Great Start Readiness Program, and spent $98 million in fiscal year 2011.

An evaluation of Michigan’s state pre-k program found that, while pre-k participation did not significantly impact test scores when measured in the 7th grade, pre-k participation did have a dramatic impact on grade repetition. Children who did not attend Michigan’s pre-k program were 51 percent more likely to be held back a grade by the 8th grade than the children who attended pre-k.

Lansing Township Police Chief Kay Hoffman, also an executive committee member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan, said, “We want kids to graduate on schedule without having to repeat a grade. The research shows that having preschool improves the likelihood of graduation. Graduates are less likely to be coming to our jails.”

The law enforcement leaders noted that Gov. Snyder had presented a maintenance-level budget, but that there was a long way to go before the budgets were finalized. They agree that any state or federal cuts to funding for early childhood programs would be shortsighted and risky since quality early care and education programs actually save money in the long run. The Perry Preschool Program cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that it saved taxpayers an average of $180,000 for every child served, with the vast majority of the public savings coming from reduced crime costs alone.

Law enforcement leaders are urging policymakers to protect and strengthen early care and education programs. Congress also has the opportunity to improve these programs through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and other education initiatives that will help states to improve and increase access to high-quality early education.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and violence survivors, with 470 members in Michigan and 5,000 members nationwide.