West Chester Daily Local: Local officials advocate for pre-K funding to prevent crime
April 3, 2018 by Bill Rettew

WEST CHESTER >> The consensus around the county commissioner’s board room table was that you can pay now or pay later when it comes to preventing crime.

About two dozen law enforcement leaders and members of the Chester County state legislative delegation talked Tuesday about the benefits of funding pre-K education for three- and four-year-olds.

The law enforcement leaders are members of “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.”

A new report, “Pre-K Key to Cutting Pennsylvania Prison Costs and Boosting School Success,” was recently released.

The report cites “state and national research studies showing that quality early learning programs have been proven to reduce disadvantages resulting in fewer behavior problems, better school outcomes, increased high school graduation rates, and ultimately less criminal activity.”

District Attorney Tom Hogan said that providing a solid Pre-K education serves as an “inoculation and antibiotic” to keep kids from ending up in prison.

“Crime doesn’t pay, but like it or not, we do pay for crime,” West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn said. “The investment saves us far more than the cost.”

“No child is destined at birth to end up in jail,” Sherriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh said. “If you are bad, we will be waiting for you with expensive solutions.”

Law enforcement leaders urged the state lawmakers to prioritize a $40 million expansion for high-quality Pre-Kindergarten within the 2018-2019 budget.

Additional funding would allow 4,400 more eligible children to get the schooling.

About 106,000 eligible three- and four-year-olds statewide, along with about 3,500 youngsters in Chester County, lack access to a good Pre-K education.

State Rep. Duane Milne, R-167, released the following statement:“The connection between well-funding early education initiatives and the later effects on reducing the likelihood of someone engaging in criminal activity and becoming a ‘regular’ of the criminal justice system is clear, convincing and compelling.

“Strategic investments of public dollars into education can save taxpayers billions of dollars in the longer run, by decreasing levels of welfare, crime and other challenges facing our society.

“This is a classic (policy) case that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound (and then some) in cure.”

State Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, said that in the long run the added funding would save money.

State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, asked her fellow elected officials how to best push for the funding and subsequently not “pay out down the road.

“For a while, it’s going to cost more.”

Veteran state Rep. Becky Corbin, R-155, said that in the end increasing funding will pay off.

“You just have to make your case,” Corbin told Comitta.

Moderator and state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Bruce R. Clash, noted that 40 percent of first-time prison inmates have no high school degree.

Hogan said that many inmates never learned to read.

“If you can’t read, you can take the pipeline straight into prison,” Hogan said. Hogan also said that with a simple investment in education, many more of the youngest will live “productive, happy, and free lives.”

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, talked about the trauma for many three- and four-year-olds growing up in a negative environment.

“It doesn’t matter what your party is,” Dinniman said. “And we can’t give up on middle school or high school kids either.”

County Commissioner Michelle Kichline said that lawmakers are often tasked with making choices. She said that public officials need to look at how to best spend the dollars.

Christine Fox, curriculum director for Warwick Child Care Center said that the child care provider was able to expand from 90 to 110 students because of expanded funding.

“High quality early childhood educators provide an atmosphere where children feel safe and eager to learn new things through hands-on learning experiences,” Fox said. “Children who attend high-quality learning programs will enter kindergarten ready to learn, do better in school, are more likely to graduate high school and college and become thriving citizens within the community.

“It takes a community to raise a child and we need everyone’s help to do this well.”

Read the full article here.