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Cops: Spend On Schools, Not Jails

Illinois law enforcement leaders say the best way to fight crime is by investing money into classrooms to prevent at-risk and low-income children from becoming future troublemakers.

Illinois law enforcement leaders are urging state lawmakers to "make good on promised payments" delayed to preschool programs. They also asked to restore $38 million previously cut from the Early Childhood Block Grant in next year's state budget. The grant helps fund preschool education for at risk and low-income children, which police said helps keep kids from getting involved in crime.

Granite City Police Chief Richard Miller said those children need guidance at a young age.

"The end result saves society money, because we are not locking them up as police chiefs; they become successful," Miller said.

Miller was lucky, even though he grew up as an "at-risk" child.

"My mother and father were there for me," Miller said. "[B]ut to be in public housing and to grow up on a lower income side of town - there is no doubt that my education values, and learning how to learn and things to do - came from that. I grew up with kids that now are dead or in prison."

As members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, a nonprofit anti-crime organization, Illinois law enforcement leaders noted the state can save up to $400 million a year by reducing the need for special education and for failing grades.

Ogle County State's Attorney Ben Roe said preschool helps children to develop skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

"In Illinois, many children start school already behind their classmates in early math and reading skills," Roe said. "Many have not mastered the social skills they need to follow teachers' directions and establish good friendships in schools. These problems can lead to a pattern of failure that lasts a lifetime."

Special education costs can be reduced if children with developmental delays and behavioral problems have access to preschool, said Algonquin Police Chief Russ Laine.

"In Illinois, we currently spend over $2 billion on special education, and only $304 million on preschool programs," Laine said. "By investing more in preschool, we can achieve real savings in special education, as well in other education areas, such as reducing the number of children who need to repeat grades."

Funding for the grant will be restored to fiscal year 2009 levels at $380 million in fiscal year 2012, said Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Governor's Office of Management and Budget. However, the final state budget will need lawmakers' approval.

"Governor Quinn is a staunch advocate of early childhood education, and he feels that it is vital in preparing children for a lifetime of learning and development," Kraft said.


Comments welcome.


Posted on March 15, 2011

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