Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crime Reduction Cited in Plea to Keep Early Education

Allegheny County officials voiced support for pre-kindergarten education funding today, touting state programs’ long-term benefits in education and prevention of later criminal behavior.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids State Director Bruce Clash says Head Start and Pre-K Counts may face budget cuts again this year, as they did during 2009-2010 budget talks.

“The Republican Caucus put forth a proposal to cut Pre-K Counts and Head Start by 50%, which would’ve been devastating not only to Pittsburgh Public Schools, but all the grant recipients across the state,” says Clash.

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program receives 51% of its funding from the state, with the remainder coming from the federal government. ECE employs 102 teachers and serves more than 2,500 children.

ECE Program Coordinator Kim Russo says the majority of those kids are “at-risk” for later criminal behavior – meaning there is criminal activity in their household, they have medical problems, or they live in poverty.

Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka says recent research shows early childhood education reduces rates of criminal behavior for at-risk children -- but she says that’s not the only benefit.

“Children who have a good, healthy Head Start education, Pre-K education, know boundaries, have a safe place to be, and are far less likely to be victimized than children who are not given that opportunity,” says Ditka.

State Senator Jay Costa (D – Allegheny) says programs such as these will reduce the state’s future corrections budgets, which he says have swelled from $180 million to today’s $1.8 billion in the past 25 years.

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