Early ed reduces likelihood of committing crimes
Posted on 7.18.11
Early ed reduces likelihood of committing crimes
By LINDA HALL
WOOSTER -- An anti-crime group has equated early education with a reduction in crime.
As reported by the Ohio School Boards Association in its June 27 "Briefcase," the study, called "Pay Now or Pay Much More Later," discovered "investing in high-quality early childhood education significantly reduces the likelihood that children will go on to commit crimes."
The group is called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and has a membership of more than 5,000 law enforcement and justice personnel.
Ohio Chapter member Mathias Heck Jr., the Montgomery County prosecutor, said from a financial perspective preventing children from turning to crime could save Ohio taxpayers about $2.5 million per child and that taxpayers now spend $1.72 billion a year on corrections.
The importance of early education has long been touted by local school districts and organizations.
"There is no doubt we (and others) have been following the research," said Wooster City Schools' Superintendent Michael Tefs.
One of the studies to which Tefs referred was conducted by the University of Minnesota about an early education program in Chicago.
Tefs described it as "a well-structured, quality study leading to numerous other studies," specifically in regard to "trying to close the achievement gap" experienced by lower socio-economic levels and "the return on that investment."
Some of the University of Minnesota's conclusions were reported in an article called "A Good Way to Break the Grip of Poverty," updated in June in the University of Minnesota News, comparing two groups of children born between 1979 and 1980 and tracked for 25 years.
One group completed a Chicago Public Schools' federally funded preschool program geared to low-income, primarily minority families; the other did not.
By age 28, the preschool participants had chalked up a high school completion rate of 81.5 percent vs. the other group's 75.1 percent; a lower drug and alcohol abuse rate of 19.3 compared to 23 percent, a lower felony arrest record of 19.3 to the non-preschool group's 24.6 percent and decreased jail or other incarceration time, 15.2 vs. 21.1 percent.
The investment in early childhood education has been the focus of the Wooster District's Littlest General Preschool, Tefs said, and academic benefits have been demonstrated in kindergarten and first grade.
"Clearly, in all instances, it goes back to the fact that for every increase in level of education," said Brenda Linnick, the executive director of United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, the economic value attached rises as well.
Early childhood education is "really a long-term predictor" of future success, Linnick said.
Linnick has accrued quite a bit of related data, including information from the Heckman Equation Project, which demonstrates a number of monetary benefits to the government derived from early education programs. The list compiled by the project includes lower social welfare and public health care system costs, reduced dropout rates, lower costs for the criminal justice system and increased tax revenue.
In Linnick's opinion, the local community does a "pretty good job of keeping kids in school" and offering early childhood education experiences.
But the level can be raised even further, she said, particularly as "we know so much more now," as detailed as what kind of communication needs to occur between infants and caregivers.
It's important that children's first encounter with school be positive, she said, and those children who haven't had either formal preschool experience or an educationally rich environment at home "can't possibly compete."
Tefs said at a Wooster board meeting in June 2009 the foundation laid by early education for later achievement is well-known; legislators recognizing they must "pay now (when students are in preschool) or pay later (when they may need academic intervention)."
Children's workplace is their school, said Cameron Maneese, the coordinator of Wayne County Family and Children First.
It is where they are prepared for social interaction and communication skills, along with academic knowledge, and ultimately involvement in the community, according to Maneese.
Children's future success is tied to "feelings about achievement" and self-confidence, Maneese said, which may be gained through early education.
Maneese cited research documented by the Ohio Business Roundtable.
In a kindergarten readiness document released by the organization at the end of 2010 were statistics noting the following: "On basic measures of early literacy, nearly 60 percent of Ohio children entering school are not ready for kindergarten." On the other end of the scale, "nearly 30 percent of Ohio's economically disadvantaged students fail to graduate from high school."
The document also quoted James J. Heckman, a professor at the University of Chicago and a Nobel laureate in economics, as saying "many of America's major economic and social problems -- crime, teen pregnancy, high school dropouts -- can be traced to low levels of skill and social ability," such as attentiveness and impulse control.
"Intelligence and social abilities are developed at an early age, and both are critical for success," said Heckman, whose research showed "every dollar invested in early childhood education produces a 10 percent annum return on investment, far exceeding returns on later interventions, such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training, convict rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs and tuition subsidies," according to the material provided by the roundtable.
Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230 or email@example.com.
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