Sheriffs, top school official back early education to boost graduation rates, cut crime
Las Vegas — Las Vegas Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Nye County Sheriff Anthony DeMeo, and Clark County School Superintendent Dr. Walt Rulffes hosted a joint news conference Thursday to release a new report showing the connection between high school dropouts and violent crime.
High school dropouts are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than graduates. Nationwide, nearly 70 percent of state prison inmates do not have a high school diploma.
The report from the organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, entitled “School or the Streets,” suggests that increasing graduation rates 10 percentage points would prevent 45 murders and over 2,000 aggravated assaults every year.
“There is a lot of talk lately about the economy and public safety. People want to know what can be done to improve the quality of life in their community,” Gillespie said. “Well here’s something we can do- we can support early education, and we can encourage our young people to finish high school.”
The report also shows that increased access to high-quality early education programs would have a significant impact on reducing the state’s high dropout rate and preventing later crime. As it stands, Nevada ranks as the second lowest in the number of young children covered by the state pre-k program and the federally-funded Head Start program- less than 10 percent of 3-and 4-year-olds.
“Every child deserves a chance to succeed,” said Clark County School District Superintendent Walt Rulffes. “Support and funding are necessary at all levels of education for children to obtain the quality education that will help them succeed and become productive, civic-minded members of society.”
A long-term study of a Michigan preschool showed that at-risk children who attended the high-quality program were 44 percent more likely to finish high school compared to similar children who did not participate. By age 27, children left out of the program were five times more likely to be arrested multiple times.
Gillespie and DeMeo urged Nevada’s Congressional delegation to expand federal support for high-quality early education programs like Head Start, which are proven to improve school readiness and boost graduation rates in the long run.
“By increasing federal funding for early childhood programs like Head Start and quality child care, we give kids a chance early in life to succeed,” DeMeo said. “This success will lead to increased high school graduation rates and decrease the likelihood that they will commit a violent crime.”
FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS is a bipartisan, anti-crime organization led by more than 4,000 sheriffs, police chiefs, prosecutors, other law enforcement leaders, and violence survivors, including 23 in the state of Nevada.