When nine Chicago-area police chiefs, including Niles Police Chief Dean Strzelecki, gathered at a press conference Thursday to ask Congress to fund preschool and early education, they presented a report filled with very persuasive research.
It indicated Illinois could have 4,800 fewer prison inmates, a great reduction in crime and a savings of $131 million per year if it could prevent just 10 percent of crime by funding early childhood education.
Strzelecki didn't have any problem convincing his wife, Laurie, of preschool's merits. As a pre-school teacher for 27 years, she can tell you exactly why early education prevents children from growing up into rule-breakers and then law-breakers.
Preschool helps tots learn self-control, become aware of their impulses and balance their wants with other's people's feelings, in her view.
"We say, 'is it OK for you to take the toy from your friend? Is that nice?'" she said.
"And we give them words to say, like, 'I don't like that you hit me' or 'Let's share this toy.'"
Being able to articulate those feelings fosters three- and four-year-old children's social-emotional development, which Laurie Strzelecki says is (or should be) huge at this age.
Preschool teachers can impart lasting lessons about right and wrong--lessons which resonate later in life.
Early education's other important benefit is that it gives tots pre-reading and pre-math skills to prepare them well for kindergarten. That helps them to succeed academically, and academic success gives children higher self-esteem, Laurie Strzelecki maintains.
The report the police chiefs released, "I'm the Guy You Pay Later," prepared by a non-profit organization called Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, contained many facts, including:
- Forty-eight percent of inmates in Illinois prisons do not have a high school diploma or GED.
- A study that followed children who participated in high-quality preschool and parent coaching programs through Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers found they were 20 percent less likely to be arrested for a felony or be incarcerated as young adults than those who did not attend.
- Research found that by age three, children with professional parents had average vocabularies of 1,116 words, compared to 749 words for working class and 525 for children of parents receiving welfare.
- By the time children reach kindergarten, too many are not only far behind in vocabulary development, but on pre-literacy and pre-math skills (such as knowing their alphabet or being able to count to ten), as well. Many also face challenges in learning to control impulses and behavior so they can get along with other students and teachers.
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