Law Enforcement Leaders Tell Kline: School Reform Bill Can Help Fight Crime
Burnsville, MINN. (June 4, 2010)— Law enforcement officials met with Rep. John Kline (R-MN) today to discuss opportunities to reduce crime through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Rep. Kline will be a key legislator in the reauthorization of that bill as the ranking member on the Education and Labor Committee—the panel responsible for writing the reform legislation in the House of Representatives.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster, Rosemount Chief of Police Gary Kalstabakken, Carver County Sheriff Byron Olson and Carver County Attorney James Keeler, Jr. recognized Kline’s longtime work on education issues in Congress and asked him to consider reforms that will help cut crime by helping kids succeed academically and stay out of trouble. They specifically recommended providing kids with early education, keeping school-age kids on track to graduation, and reducing bullying, school violence and drug abuse, which would all have a positive effect on preventing later crime.
“It’s just plain common sense that helping kids make it to graduation day can help reduce the likelihood that they’ll end up with a sentencing date in court. We know it from our law enforcement experience, and the research proves it’s true,” County Attorney Backstrom said. “We want the education bill to include approaches that will not only educate our kids, but also keep them out of trouble and on the right side of the law.”
Research shows a clear connection between educational success and decreased involvement in crime. Research compiled by the anti-crime group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids also shows that a one-year increase of staying in school reduces murder and assault by almost 30 percent, motor vehicle theft by 20 percent, arson by 13 percent and burglary and larceny by about 6 percent. One study found that high school dropouts are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than graduates.
The law enforcement leaders asked that the reauthorization of the federal education bill provide incentives for states to increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, encouraging a shift to pre-k through 12 education, not just a K-through-12 approach. Providing at-risk children with high-quality pre-kindergarten can significantly reduce later involvement in crime and improve graduation rates.
A study of the Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti, Mich. found that at-risk kids left out of the high-quality program were 5 times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than their peers left out of the program. The kids who attended were also 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school than those left out.
“Getting kids involved in early education makes a critical difference in helping them finish school and become law-abiding adults. It’s considerably cheaper to pay for high-quality pre-k today than it is to pay room and board for criminal offenders down the road,” County Attorney Beaumaster said.
They also urged that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ensure graduation rates are calculated consistently and accurately, and hold schools accountable for improving graduation rates. Additionally, they asked that the reform measure include evidence-based programs that reduce dropout rates and cut down on bullying, school violence and drug abuse.
“Of course, there’s no substitute for tough law enforcement, but the best way to make our communities safer is to prevent crime in the first place,” Chief Kalstabakken said. “Let’s take advantage of the opportunity presented by this education bill to implement the methods proven to keep kids on the right track.”
County Attorney Backstrom, County Attorney Beaumaster, Chief Kalstabakken, County Attorney Keeler and Sheriff Olson are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors with over 129 members in Minnesota and more than 5,000 members nationwide.