How can Pre-K Help?

Pre-K and Crime

“Pay for high-quality early education programs now, or pay far more later for the costs of crime and lack of educational success”.

That’s the conclusion of a recent report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids which discusses many ways Pre-K programs can help reduce crime and keep at-risk children in school. The report, entitled, “Pre-K Key to Cutting Pennsylvania Prison Costs and Boosting School Success”, explains statistical findings, from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, which connect lack of education with an increased chance for incarceration.  For example, 26.3% of current state prison inmates have less than a 12th grade education. High school dropouts are more likely to end up in prison.  Many prisoners find it difficult to find employment after incarceration, and education is one of the reasons why.

The report also outlines several different Pre-K programs in the nation and how they have positively impacted children and society as a whole. For example, a study in Chicago focusing on the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) showed that “children not served by the Chicago CPC program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18”.

How can Pre-K help?      

Publicly funded pre-k programs focus on providing at-risk kids with high-quality early learning programs. These programs can provide better schooling outcomes because kids will be ready for school, won’t be held back, and will have a lower chance of dropping out before completing high school.  Because individuals who do not graduate high school are more likely to commit crimes, this means reduced prison costs.  According to the Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania currently spends $3.2 billion each year on state and local corrections.

Pre-K programs ensure that children have the opportunity for quality early education.  The report discusses how early experiences determine how a young brain is wired.  This wiring becomes the building blocks through which all later learning is incorporated.  Early education prepares children to succeed in school.

Long-term benefits

The goal of this report is to show that Pennsylvania has a simple choice.  Pennsylvanians could see almost $150 million in societal benefits over their lifetime with Governor Wolf’s proposed $40 million funding increase for Pre-K Counts and Head Start State Supplemental Assistance programs in 2018-2019.  This funding would benefit an estimated 4,400 additional low-income Pennsylvania children.  Pre-K works and the benefits show that these programs more than pay for themselves!  To read the full report click here.

United Ways encourage all Pennsylvanians who understand that high quality Pre-K and Head Start are beneficial for our kids and our economy to do two things: 1) become supporters of the Pre-K for PA campaign here and contact your state legislators (find yours here) to urge them to support $40 million in the 2018 -2019 state budget so that another 4400 of PA’s at-risk kids will have access to high quality early childhood education next year.

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