A national coalition of law enforcement officials is calling on Congress to fully fund preschool programs for low-income kids. Over 30 Ohio police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors have signed a letter to Congress asking legislators to pass President Obama’s proposal to put $75 billion into early childhood education over ten years. They say it would ultimately pay itself off in the reduced costs of incarceration.
“Eighty percent of the people who are in our prisons in Ohio have no high school diploma or GED,” said Cindy Rees, the Ohio leader for the Fight Crime, Invest in Kids campaign. “How do we fix that? Let’s spend our money on early learning.”
A report released by the group on Wednesday argues that beefing up preschool would result in $158 million in savings for Ohio alone. And it highlights several studies from around the country that link early childhood education to reduced incarceration rates. The group represents 5,000 law enforcement leaders and crime victims from around the country.
From 2002-2012 the number of Ohio children in preschool was cut in half as both state and federal budgets were curtailed. Meanwhile, Ohio prisons are overcrowded.
“Our quest is to create good paying jobs in Ohio,” said Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly. “And we don’t wanna see the growth industry in Ohio being to build and maintain prisons.”
Opponents of expanded preschool argue the benefits don’t justify the costs.