Prosecutors urge funding increases for pre-kindergarten programs
Stressing that paying for early childhood education pays for itself in reduced inmate costs, a group of prosecutors gathered at the State Corrections Institution in Chester on Wednesday to announce the results of a report entitled “The Guy You Pay Later.”
The members of “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” – Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, Delaware County District Attorney John J. Whelan, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, and Cumberland County District Attorney David J. Freed – all spoke at the event.
The district attorneys urged state and federal lawmakers to expand funding for high-quality early childhood education to reduce the unmet need in southeast Pennsylvania and across the state. Currently only 17 percent of all 3- and 4-year-olds in Pennsylvania have access to publicly-funded pre-kindergarten programs, and only 50 percent of Pennsylvania inmates possess a high-school diploma.
The group also urged Congress to enact a state/federal pre-k partnership proposal, which would provide states with resources to create, strengthen, and expand quality state preschool to serve low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds nationwide.
“We’re tough on criminals because public safety is job one,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman. “But a more proactive use of taxpayer dollars is to invest in early learning, which has a much greater return on investment by keeping fewer people from becoming criminals.”
The prosecutors said significant research documents the impact of quality early childhood programs on crime reduction. “I’m The Guy You Pay Later” notes that the federal cost of the state federal preschool proposal – $75 billion over 10 years – is only one-tenth of the $75 billion that is spent every year to incarcerate adults in federal and state prisons or local jails, the release said.
The report also shows that implementing the proposal could save $75 billion over the 10-year investment, which is equivalent to the federal costs of the preschool program. As a result, Pennsylvania could eventually decrease its prisoners by over 5,000 each year and save $195 million every year. The Commonwealth currently spends more than $1.9 billion per year on the Department of Corrections, a Fight Crime news release said.