Even amid the gridlock in the “other” Washington, lawmakers have come together to make gains for our children. It was great to read that a bipartisan group of House members joined Sen, Patty Murray in introducing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.
As the article said, as many as 50,000 children in Washington could potentially qualify for taxpayer-paid preschool at an average cost of nearly $7,000 per child. That may seem like a steep price. However, consider that in Washington we spend nearly $854 million to incarcerate 17,000 offenders in our state prison system.
That money, if invested in a child’s earliest years, can have strong payoffs for future crime prevention.
In September, I participated in the release of a new report, “I’m the Guy You Pay Later,” that lays out in very clear terms the proven benefits of investing in high-quality early learning. We know from research and from our experience that the journey that brings many individuals into the criminal justice system didn’t happen overnight.
The path to school failure is often charted in a child’s earliest years. “I’m the Guy You Pay Later” describes the particular challenges faced by kids who are born into low-income families.
By the time these youngsters get to kindergarten, many are already behind in vocabulary development and pre-literacy and pre-math skills. They can also have problems with behavior and impulse control — which makes it hard to get along with other kids and teachers.
Quality preschool and early childhood programs have been proven to reduce these disadvantages. As a nation we can keep doing what we’re doing and see our prison costs continue to consume billions of dollars a year. Or, we can implement policies and make investments needed to get more kids on the path to success in school and life.
I urge our state’s congressional delegation to join its colleagues in support of the Strong Start of America’s Children Act.
Chief Scott Bieber
Walla Walla Police Department