According to a recent report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, investing in high-quality early care and education could reduce the likelihood that children will commit crimes and be arrested, saving state governments millions of dollars long-term. The anti-crime organization stated in its report, Pay Now or Pay Much More Later, that high-quality pre-kindergarten and other early learning programs can prevent children from ever reaching this path towards prison.
Critical years for child development are considered from birth to age five, when a child’s brain is most rapidly developing. Early investment in quality education during this period can have significant long-term effects on a child’s future, and help build safer communities. Evidence from several studies shows that this investment can reduce the likelihood that a child will be sentenced to jail or prison and increase their chances of graduating from high school.
The Fight Crime report noted that, in 2010, Michigan invested $98 million on state pre-kindergarten programs while simultaneously spending $1.9 billion on state corrections to facilitate and supervise state and federal criminals. Jeff Hansen of The Birmingham News noted in its coverage of the report that Alabama spends 34 times more on state corrections than it does on early education programs, leaving the state with one of the widest budget gaps in the nation. With a mere $17.6 million spent on early education in 2011, only 6 percent of four-year-olds in Alabama have been able to receive pre-k education.
The Pay Now report is part of Fight Crime’s effort to increase budgetary support for high-quality early education amongst policymakers. The organization urges state governments and Congress to protect these programs and make them a top priority in order to grow strong and safe communities.
Shannon Kluss is a Digital Communications intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism. She is a Portland, Ore. native, and Pacific NW enthusiast.
Updated: June 12 2012