Law Enforcement Leaders highlight Pressing need for Investment in Pre-K

By on Thursday, February 11th, 2021 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

LA GRANDE – The report makes the connection between early education and safer and better futures for kids.

Investing in high-quality pre-K in Oregon is the one of the best ways to reduce crime in the long run and to put as many young children as possible on the path to success.

That’s the compelling, top-line message from a new report released today by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national membership organization of over 5,000 law enforcement leaders, with over 120 here in Oregon, who promotes solutions that boost public safety while steering kids away from crime.  Representatives from the organization helped release the report and helped to highlight the crime-prevention powers of investments in high-quality pre-K.

The report, entitled Soaring Higher With Pre-K — Now More Than Ever,” details how Oregon’s long-term public safety depends in part on the foundation laid by high-quality early education.  Despite the evidence-based benefits of pre-K, about two-thirds of Oregon’s eligible children, or more than 30,000 kids, still don’t have access to these programs.

Union County District Attorney Kelsie McDaniel noted the connection between investments in high-quality pre-K and better outcomes down the road.  “Research has shown that high-quality early education can yield many positive outcomes among participating children, including better academic outcomes, fewer behavior problems, fewer school dropouts, and, eventually, less crime and incarceration,” she explained.

DA McDaniel also explained that COVID-19 has made this issue even more urgent, and that failing to act now could have significant, negative consequences in the years to come.  “Simply put, if we don’t invest in pre-K now, we could wind up spending millions on remedial education and public safety if the investment falls short,” she said.

Warrenton Chief of Police Matt Workman stressed the research-backed results that high-quality pre-K can produce.  He cited multiple studies that “have found that attending pre-K results in higher achievement in math and literacy among children who participate,” as well as outcomes linked to lower crime and incarceration rates.

“We have to ensure that Oregon’s kids can reap the benefits of these programs, both for the sake of long-term public safety, and for the sake of these children’s educational and life success,” Chief Workman added.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese echoed the sentiments of his fellow Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members, emphasizing the importance of quality.  “[High-quality] means full-day, full-week programs,” he said.  “Research has shown that full-day programs improve math and vocabulary skills to a greater extent than part-day programs.”

Sheriff Reese also called for other measures designed to maintain or improve quality, such as Oregon’s Early Childhood Division providing an annual report to the legislature to track progress in meeting the needs of the state’s young children.

Oregon State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Martha Brooks pointed to other steps that the state can take to ensure that Oregon’s children reap the benefits of access to high-quality pre-K.  These measures include expanding the number of pre-K slots available, investing in quality improvements, and adopting a more productive approach to school discipline for pre-K students, moving away from suspension and expulsion.