By Stephanie Minasian, May 10, 2012
Stephanie Minasian is a fellow with New America Media’s Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.
Publicly funded early education programs are being slashed right along with other cuts to K-12 education. Preschool, although a simple part of childhood, is also widely regarded by child development experts as having a major impact on young lives.
But could sending youngsters to preschool also reduce crime?
Officials in Illinois recently lashed out after 17,600 “at-risk” children were denied early education due to a program closure. The officials, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post, have argued that keeping the preschool program in place will actually save them future dollars, diverted from the prison system.
Illinois officials estimate that cutting preschool for these children will cost taxpayers
$200 million in criminal, educational and social services costs over their entire lifetimes.
“[I have] tremendous concern for some young people,” Granite City Police Chief Rich
Miller said in the article. “I personally benefited from Head Start. It’s just bad, bad, bad for public safety and for our state to lose these programs.”
The author of the Huff Post article writes that Illinois’ Preschool For All program lost $55 million during the last three years, and residents and state officials are worried that reducing the program further will cause thousands of at-risk youngsters to become more likely to turn to criminal activities as adults and develop mental health problems – thus causing the state to eventually pay more in these service areas.
Across California and even the nation, programs much like Preschool For All are being drained.
In Long Beach, the district’s Head Start program – partially paid for by the federal government — faces severe cutbacks. Long Beach Unified voted early this month to eliminate the Head Start preschool program, which serves as many as 2,000 low-income Long Beach youngsters, who rely on the program. To take away their access to early education, where essential social skills are learned and confidence is built, would be to their great detriment.
The only silver lining in the recent decision is that Long Beach school district officials
Have agreed to keep the program intact through the 2013-14 academic year. But what happens after that?
These at-risk youngsters are the future backbone of the country, and without the support of early education programs, they’ll be less likely to find success and break the generational cycles of poverty and crime.
Let’s keep pushing for these young futures.