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My Turn: Pre-K plan will cut future prison costs

Remember the day you sent your son or daughter off to preschool for the first time?

Chances are you felt a great deal of gratitude, knowing the experience would form a foundation for long-term school success.

Unfortunately, not all kids have that opportunity. Nationwide, the annual cost for a quality preschool program ranges from $4,000 to $9,000 per child, well out of range for many working families. As a result, many children who don’t participate start school at a strong disadvantage and fall further behind year after year as lessons become more challenging.

This bothers me greatly as the Merrimack County sheriff, because disadvantaged children who participate in high-quality preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school and stay out of trouble with the law.

My views are driven by my own experience and by research from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an organization of 5,000 law enforcement leaders. Reports from the organization paint a stark and compelling picture of what happens when disadvantaged kids are left out of quality preschool programs.

One study compared the experiences of children who did or did not participate in a Chicago program and found that nonparticipants were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18. Participants were 40 percent less likely to be placed in special education and 29 percent more likely to have graduated from high school by age 20.

Those who did not participate in a similar program in Michigan were five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers by the age of 27, while participants were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school.

As a resident of New Hampshire, you should be concerned that we are one of only nine states that does not have a state preschool program. This is terrible news for parents who cannot afford private preschool in our state.

The good news is that New Hampshire stands to benefit significantly from a proposed state-federal partnership, the bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act – that would give states the resources to create, strengthen and expand access to high-quality preschool programs. The proposal comes at a pivotal time – in 2013 alone Republican and Democratic governors of 25 states proposed and/or signed into law significant expansions of their preschool programs.

This is a smart move, based on recent studies of numerous state preschool programs from New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, West Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina and others. The studies showed a range of benefits for participating kids, including a lower need for special education, fewer developmental delays, and significant gains in mathematics and literacy that lasted well into the elementary school years. These outcomes demonstrate a clear connection to long-term academic success, which every policymaker should support.

Taking advantage of this proposal is also a wise economic decision. A well-respected, independent analysis of more than 20 different studies of preschool programs for at-risk kids showed they can return, on average, a “profit” to society of $15,000 for every child served, based on lower crime, welfare, special education and other taxpayer-funded costs.

If you have any further doubt about the link between educational achievement and crime, consider the fact that seven out of 10 people incarcerated in state prisons don’t have a high school diploma. Expanding access to quality preschool will change this statistic, giving more children a foundation for academic success today and reducing crime and its costs in the years to come.

(Scott E. Hilliard is the sheriff of Merrimack County.)

This letter is a joke. Every parent I know that wants to send their child to a preschool has them enrolled in preschool - some programs are subsidized and some are not.

You mean "every parent" who can afford to. As long as we continue to claim that wealth equals virtue, and that the well-to-do are both more virtuous AND more deserving, and that the poor are deserving of their status by virtue of their lack of initiative and responsibility, then we perpetuate the cycle of poverty. But as the sheriff points out, quality preschool programs are a cost-effective way to give all children a better chance at success in school and in life. Other nations already know this. France has had universal pre-school programs for 180 years. As one ex-pat mom writes: "Universal preschool is an economically efficient way to narrow our widening gap between rich and poor, both by getting kids to a level playing field earlier in their lives, and by giving working families some relief from the ever-increasing cost of child care." Which, upon reflection, is precisely why the right opposes such programs. Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! Subversive values all when they're used inclusively. Only if you have the dough are you deemed virtuous in the eyes of the Tea Party/ Libertarian/Hard Right. Only then are you entitled to "liberty". http://www.slate.com/articles/business/dispatches_from_the_welfare_state/2014/02/universal_pre_k_france_is_about_180_years_ahead_of_america_on_preschool.2.html http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/05_03_04.pdf

I would like to hear your take on the HHS report regarding Head Start Bruce. The only programs that do work are went parents are involved, period. That applies to diets, behavior, reading, and a host of other supports that work only if the parent is involved. And I am not just talking about kids who come from low income households. Our schools low scores are not because of just low income parents, they are a result of parents across every income level. That is pretty obvious when you see who is killing fellow students at schools. You would be hard pressed to find any of those school attacks, that originate with a student that comes from a low income family. That seems to be an aspect that the left avoid to recognize. Their take on anything is always related to low income folks. You cannot connect everything to poverty. History tells a different story. Many immigrants came here poor, yet what were the poverty rates and crime rates during those times. It is the culture we live in, plain and simple. You cannot push the parenting role off on everybody else, and ignore the source . Kids learn what they see and what they are taught. And their biggest influence is parents. It is not up to teachers, the govt, or anybody else to raise your kid,

No Bruce, I mean every parent...ever heard of Head Start? Also in my neck of the woods there is a nice program in Penacook.

Dear usual suspects: some reading material: exhibit A: http://www.grossmont.edu/johnoakes/s110online/Causation versus Correlation.pdf exhibit B: https://www.khanacademy.org/math/probability/regression/regression-correlation/v/correlation-and-causality exhibit C: http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/science-questions/10-correlations-that-are-not-causations.htm

The usual suspects want the "evidence" that supports and justifies early childhood education. Here is some: “A recent analysis integrating evaluations of 84 preschool programs concluded that, on average, children gain about a third of a year of additional learning across language, reading, and math skills. At-scale preschool systems in Tulsa and Boston have produced larger gains of between a half and a full year of additional learning in reading and math. Benefits to children’s socio-emotional development and health have been documented in programs that focus intensively on these areas. Quality preschool education is a profitable investment. Rigorous efforts to estimate whether the economic benefits of early childhood education outweigh the costs of providing these educational opportunities indicate that they are a wise financial investment. Available benefit-cost estimates based on older, intensive interventions, such as the Perry Preschool Program, as well as contemporary, large-scale public preschool programs, such as the Chicago Child-Parent Centers and Tulsa’s preschool program, range from three to seven dollars saved for every dollar spent.” http://fcd-us.org/sites/default/files/Evidence%20Base%20on%20Preschool%20Education%20FINAL.pdf

Could you pick a website more engrained in agenda and ideology. Headed by uber-progressive David Lawrence, the FCD is a private foundation with a mission to prove that these things are valid.

So you're contesting the many years of research findings that show that rich early childhood educational experiences improve the educational and life experiences of young children?

GEORGE WILL: ..... the universal pre-school, since there is very little social science that suggested it does much for the children involved, the real reason for it is it does a great deal for the teachers’ unions

George Will and BPR are too enamored of their misanthropic dogma to accept any facts that may contradict. "Very little social science" = overwhelming statistical correlation. Go figure!

No, they both are correct. Progresives use statistics until the statistics don't work and then it is supposition. I see that the new buzz word is "correlation" in the posts these days.

Wow this is truly getting old. If I had a nickle for every time PBR has used the words THE LATEST POLL in a post, I could finance statewide pre-school. This is a forum for personal opinions, but reality is usually a guideline. Both correct on what, I could counter to PBR that there is very little social science that suggests it doesn't help the children involved. You know the olf "glass half full" issue.

cite your source

a great deal to the teachers union??? How do you arrive at these insightful answers. Enlighten me, because I can see absolutely no logical methods to your madness. Your constant rant about the teachers union baffles me, do you even know anything factual about it, really?... Back to the topic, as far as universal pre-school. Paying for it was the only real con when it came down to brass tacks. Really a poor reason given the importance that society now places on an education.

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