Twin Cities Law Enforcement Leaders Say Quality Early Learning Programs Reduce Violent Crime, Save Millions in Special Education Costs
MINNEAPOLIS(August 31, 2010) Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and Minneapolis Police Captain Ike DeLugo today released a research report showing that investing more in voluntary high-quality pre-kindergarten programs not only reduces crime over the long run but also saves millions of dollars in the states education budget in the short term. The report shows that investments in pre-k programs can reduce the need for special education placements and other K-12 education expenses when pre-k children advance to later grades.
The law enforcement leaders called on the states Congressional delegation, including Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Kline, to press for a shift from a K-through-12 education model to a pre-k through-12 approach, as Congress considers reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, called the No Child Left Behind Act in its last renewal. Citing the many benefits of pre-k programs, the law enforcement leaders expressed strong support for federal incentives to states to increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten as part of the new federal legislation. Rep. Kline is the ranking Republican member on the House education committee that is drafting the legislation. Sen. Franken serves on the Senate committee considering the education bill.
The report concludes that investments in voluntary high-quality pre-kindergarten programs in Minnesota can:
Save up to $150 million in K-through-12 education costs by lowering the number of children requiring special education services due to behavioral problems and developmental delays;
- Save an additional $150 million in education costs by reducing the need for children to repeat grades and by helping kids learn more effectively;
- Reduce violent crime and save taxpayers millions of dollars more by reducing costs for corrections, welfare and other government-funded services.
My colleagues and I in law enforcement are well aware of the tough choices our lawmakers have to make when it comes to spending priorities, Sheriff Stanek said. As a sheriff, I know first hand that giving low-income, at-risk children a good early start in life can result in fewer of these children becoming involved in crime later in life.
Among several studies cited in the report is a long-term study of Michigans 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. County Attorney Backstrom noted that quality pre-kindergarten programs help build core learning and social skills among at-risk children at an early age. Children who participate in quality pre-k programs require less special education in later years.
Special education is necessary, but expensive, Captain DeLugo said. By investing in pre-k 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 the report noted that Minnesota had taken steps to improve and expand pre-k, only 11 percent of all Minnesota three-year-olds and 16 percent of all four-year-olds are served by publicly funded early education programs including pre-k.
Minnesota spends over $1.5 billion a year on special education services, but invests only about $30 million a year in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, according to the report. The new analysis shows that if the state and federal government could dedicate an estimated $560 million to provide high-quality full-day pre-kindergarten for all the families of four-year-olds seeking to enter voluntary pre-k, the state could save as much as $150 million in special education costs and an additional $150 million in savings from reductions in grade retention and kids learning more effectively. As a result, the total K-12 education savings could reach as much as $300 million a year.
The law enforcement leaders also noted that increasing investments in high-quality pre-kindergarten 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.
By investing more in early education, we can spend less on corrections. Its far better to open a classroom door for a child than to slam a cell door shut on a criminal, County Attorney Gaertner said.
As law enforcement officials on the front line of fighting crime, we know that investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten programming will reduce crime, save taxpayer dollars and help make sure that all kids have a better start to their education and a greater chance for long-term success in life, County Attorney Backstrom stated.
Sheriff Stanek, County Attorney Gaertner, Captain DeLugo and County Attorney Backstrom are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and violence survivors, with 132 members in Minnesota and over 5,000 members nationwide.