Indiana Gazette: Letter to the Editor: Pre-k Now Can Help Prevent Crime Later
June 16, 2016

When it comes to fighting crime, we can pay now or pay much more later on. In Pennsylvania, we spend $2.2 billion a year on state prisons, and that doesn’t even include county jails. We can reduce that “back end” expenditure with upfront investments that help at-risk children grow up healthy and confident, away from crime and toward productive lives.

Our state budget has long validated proven crime-fighting initiatives in high-quality pre-K and evidence-based home visiting programs. The 2016-17 state budget proposal outlines growth for these two important initiatives to serve more children and families that qualify.

First is a $90 million expansion to enroll thousands more eligible children into high-quality Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental programs. In Indiana County, 58 percent of the approximately 1,480 eligible young learners do not have access to these programs.

Decades of research are clear that at-risk children who receive high-quality pre-K are more likely to succeed in school and steer clear of juvenile delinquency and crime. Expanding access to pre-K must also be accompanied by continued progress on implementing early learning workforce development practices through the Keystone STARS quality improvement initiative.

Second is a $10 million expansion to evidence-based home visiting programs in which trained health care and social work professionals help vulnerable mothers provide their children with good health, appropriate discipline, and developmental learning opportunities. Results of the programs include reduced instances of child abuse and neglect, more positive parenting, improved school readiness for the children and increased family self-sufficiency. One program has demonstrated reduced maternal crime and lower juvenile crime rates when the children are older.

Increased pre-K and targeted home visiting investments will help more children grow up to be good neighbors and good citizens and ultimately reduce taxpayer expense. I urge our legislators to support their inclusion in next year’s state budget.

Robert E. Fyock
Indiana County sheriff