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The Oregonian: Spending caps

This letter ran in the Oregonian on June 24, 2011.

As a district attorney, I support proven measures to keep kids away from crime because it’s sound fiscal policy and more than pays for itself. Research shows that high-quality early care and education can help reduce crime and also save public costs from welfare and corrections, especially important with the fiscal crisis we face. For example, children left out of the Child-Parent Center preschools in Chicago were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18. This program saved more than $10 for every $1 spent.

That’s why we must prioritize investments that can prevent the most-at-risk individuals from ending up in the criminal justice system. As Congress and the administration consider necessary steps to keep the nation solvent, we need the flexibility to increase or at least protect funding for vital programs such as high-quality early care and education. Some automatic budget mechanisms on the table, such as spending caps, could make that impossible and have devastating effects on these programs.

Slashing early care and education for the most at-risk young children will cause far greater fiscal pressures in the future as we pay for the cost of their failure. I urge Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to ensure that this does not happen.

Schrunk is the district attorney for Multnomah County.