WILMINGTON, N.C. – Wilmington Chief of Police Ralph Evangelous paid a visit to a local child development center yesterday to read to preschool-age children and express his support for North Carolina’s More at Four and Smart Start programs. He said these programs can help kids succeed in school and prevent them from becoming criminals. Chief Evangelous said that he wants to see the state keep funding high-quality early education as a critical strategy to help reduce crime, lower prison costs and save taxpayers money.
Citing a new research brief called “Pay Now or Pay Much More Later,” Chief Evangelous said that investing in high-quality early care and education can help improve public safety and produce savings from reduced corrections and criminal justice costs. Despite drops in crime rates in some jurisdictions, North Carolina still spent $1.36 billion in 2009-2010 on corrections with almost 40,000 adults locked up in either state or federal prisons on the first day of 2010.
On Sunday, Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a spending bill approved by the General Assembly that would make substantial changes and cuts to North Carolina’s investment in early childhood education. The Appropriations Act of 2011 effectively eliminates the More at Four early education program. Chief Evangelous and other North Carolina law enforcement leaders are urging Gov. Perdue, state legislators and other leaders to come together to find a way to maintain the current funding for high-quality early care and education. As of press time, the General Assembly had not voted to override or sustain the governor’s veto.
“Being tough on crime also means being smart on crime. Supporting early childhood care and education through Smart Start and More at Four should be part of that ‘smart on crime’ strategy,” Chief Evangelous said. “We shouldn’t skimp on the education of our youngest children. It makes a heck of a lot more sense to pay now for quality early learning than to pay much more later for a prison sentence.”
A long-term study of Michigan’s High/Scope Perry early childhood development program found that at-risk children who did not participate in the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did attend. Because of their increased involvement in crime, the children who did not attend were 86 percent more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison by the age of 40.
The report also shows that cutting funding for early childhood programs would be shortsighted and risky since quality early care and education programs actually save money in the long run. The Perry program cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that it saved taxpayers an average of $180,000 for every child served, with the vast majority of the public savings coming from reduced crime costs alone.
North Carolina’s More at Four Program stands out as an exemplar of high-quality early education and care to the nation. North Carolina is one of only four states with state-funded early education programs that meet all ten quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The program serves roughly 31,000 at-risk kids in North Carolina.
Negative Effects of Appropriations Act of 2011 on Early Education:
• The bill will not require early education and care programs to adhere to high quality standards that have been shown by research to get kids on the right path and avoid crime as they grow older.
• The 20 percent cut in funding and a co-payment requirement from parents will put a financial burden on low-income families that may prevent them from sending their children to any early education program.
• The bill will put a strain on schools’ abilities to provide early education classes. More than half of More at Four children, approximately 17,000 four-year-olds, attend a school-based program. If these programs close, thousands of students will be denied access to the program.
The chief is a member of FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS, the national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors, including 87 members in North Carolina and over 5,000 members nationwide.
Visit our website, http://www.fightcrime.org/, to follow our campaign and learn more.