Burnett County sheriff touts education in WashingtonBurnett County Sheriff Dean Roland traveled to Washington this month to ask Congress to increase investments in early childhood care and education as an effective approach to reducing crime.
Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland traveled to Washington this month to ask Congress to increase investments in early childhood care and education as an effective approach to reducing crime. Roland testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education -- the panel with spending authority over the major federally-funded early childhood development programs. Wisconsin Congressman David Obey chairs the committee.
“Working in the criminal justice profession has taught me that it’s much easier to teach a boy than to change a man,” Roland said. “The research shows that getting kids involved in early learning can cut the risk that they’ll commit crimes as adults and make our communities safer in the long run.”
Research shows that kids who receive high-quality early care and education are less likely to commit crimes later in life. A long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool found that children who did not attend the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did participate. By the age of 40, the kids who did not attend the program were seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of dangerous drugs, four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies, and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes than those who participated.
The evidence showing the crime-reducing impact of high-quality early care and education for at-risk kids is compelling, and the investments save the public money. For example, a cost-benefit analysis of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program showed that it saved $16 for every $1 spent.
Roland said that he understood the challenges of deciding on budget priorities, but that support of high-quality early childhood programs pay off in the long run.
“It’s clear that getting kids the right start through early care and education is a smart investment, and it beats paying room and board for a career criminal,” said the sheriff. “I hope the members of this committee will consider the perspective of law enforcement professionals as they decide on our budget commitments to quality early childhood programs.”
Despite the proven potential of high-quality early care and education, programs like Head Start, Early Head Start, and quality child care remain seriously underfunded. Nationally, Head Start only serves about half of the low-income 3- and 4-year-olds eligible for the program, while Early Head Start serves less than five percent of the eligible babies and toddlers. Fewer than one in seven eligible children in low-income families receives support for child care through the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
Roland called on members of the committee to increase funding for Head Start/Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant both by $1 billion over 2010 levels in this year’s spending bill for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.
The sheriff is a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors with 92 members in Wisconsin and over 5,000 nationwide.