State Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-12), Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin and Merced Chief of Police Norm Andrade visited students at Shaffer Elementary School in Atwater today to see how high-quality early education programs prepare children for the future and keep them away from crime.
“Decades of research have shown that an effective preschool experience is one of the best crime-prevention tools around,” said Morse, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California – a bipartisan, anti-crime organization led by 400 sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys and victims of violence.
Cannella, Morse and Andrade met to discuss the importance of high-quality preschool and the need for continued public investments in early learning programs. They then toured the classrooms and read to the students.
Studies show that preschool is an effective crime-prevention strategy. Research recently released by the University of Minnesota found that children not enrolled in the government-funded Child-Parent Centers in Chicago were 27 percent more likely to have been arrested for a felony by age 28 when compared to those children who participated in the program. Program participants were 21 percent more likely to have graduated from high school on time.“These studies only confirm what I know from experience: the more that we can invest in the early care and education of at-risk youth, the more likely we are to reduce felony arrests and incarceration rates among adults,” Pazin said in a news release
High-quality early education programs serving low-income children have also been proven to produce significant economic returns. Over the long term, high-quality preschool can save up to $16 for every public dollar spent, including savings resulting from reduced crime, corrections and education costs, according to the news release Preschool also helps cultivate a well-educated, skilled workforce by giving young children a strong foundation of social and intellectual growth. "There's no doubt that a high-quality early childhood education helps stimulate young minds and build a strong foundation so kids are prepared to succeed in school and in life,” Cannella said in the release. "Today's event offered a great opportunity to see firsthand the good work underway to help our kids get off to a strong start so they grow up to be successful students and productive members of our local communities." “It’s important for us to remember that even during tough economic times, investing wisely and early in our young people is the best way to keep kids in school and out of jail,” Andrade said. “From a public safety perspective, giving kids early learning opportunities ultimately saves money and lives.” Low-income families have limited access to quality preschool programs in Merced County. Even before recent state budget cuts, only 35 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in Merced County were enrolled in state- and federally-funded programs.
Morse and Andrade, on behalf of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, and law enforcement officials from across the state, called in the news release for protecting--and as the economy recovers--increasing, investments in quality preschool and transitional kindergarten as a means of protecting public safety. The 2011-2012 state budget eliminated an estimated $107 million in preschool funding, which translates to 22,000 fewer slots for low-income children statewide.