More quality preschool programs could lead to fewer people in jail later in life, according to Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash.
Ash said a new report from “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” showed that if President Obama’s proposal to fund $75 billion over 10 years for early childhood education were put into place, Kansas could save $35 million each year in the future in jail costs.
“The premise is if we invest in the kids early, and prepare for school, they’ll be more successful when they get to school,” Ash said. Those who are more successful in school are more likely to graduate, and not fall into the pressures and temptations to get involved in crime, Ash added. The result will be more high school graduates and fewer people incarcerated in local, state and federal jails, he said.
In Kansas, about 10 percent, or 950 fewer people would be placed into prison each year, at a cost savings of about $35 million, Ash said. There would be about 19,000 more high school graduates in the state. The figures are based on a study from “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.”
The idea of the program is simple – either pay now for early childhood education, or pay more later for jail costs.
“It’s a sort of ‘reap what you sow’ premise,” he said. “If we’ll sow early here and invest in these kids early before they start school, they’ll be much better prepared to start school and be successful, they’ll have a much better chance of avoiding crime, which leads to incarceration.”
And incarceration is much more expensive than providing early childhood education, which studies are showing could prevent it in many cases. According to local authorities, almost 70 percent of the people who were booked into the county jail this year did not have a high school diploma.
Wyandotte County has several early childhood programs, and some have suffered funding cuts in recent years.
If the federal government makes funds available to the state to decide how best to utilize early childhood education funds, it could mean the expansion or strengthening of programs that are already in existence, or the addition of new programs where there aren’t any currently.
With about 80 percent or more of children in the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools receiving free or reduced lunches, that shows that many families do not have the resources to go out and pay to put their children through early childhood development programs, Ash said. “They need that assistance to help them to get ready for school,” he said.
He said he believes the early childhood education funding proposal by the administration is a nonpartisan issue that is “pragmatic and practical.”
He hopes with all the current discussion over the federal budget and the health care plan, that the important issue of early childhood funding doesn’t get left out.
On Thursday, Ash was joined by Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman and Jail Administrator Jeff Fewell at a news conference on the early childhood education.
For more information on the early childhood education proposal, visit the website http://www.fightcrime.org/.