Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lawmen endorse funding prekindergarten

March 6, 2008

TOPEKA - Putting more children in prekindergarten classrooms now will prevent having to build more prisons later, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The group of police chiefs and prosecutors supports a $23 million increase in funding over two years for early childhood education programs proposed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

"We don't want America's most vulnerable kids becoming America's most wanted adults," said Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.

Branson appeared with Shawnee County District Attorney Robert Hecht and police chiefs of Lenexa and Topeka.

The group appeared on behalf of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit group that advocates for increased early childhood programs.

Jeff Kirsch, vice president of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said studies show that low-income children who receive high-quality early childhood education do better in school, are less likely to commit crimes and have a higher standard of living as adults.

"Investments in the earlier years of a child's life is one of the best investments that we could make," said Kirsch as he released a report detailing Kansas early childhood spending and statistics.

Hecht says he sees the results of early childhood neglect every day in the criminal justice system, noting that he is now prosecuting the grandchildren of people he prosecuted in the 1960s.

Because of a lack of funding, only 15 percent of Kansas' eligible children are enrolled in the at-risk 4-year-old preschool program.

One organization, Americans for Prosperity, Kansas chapter, issued a report that opposed an appropriation for a prekindergarten program.

The group said the prekindergarten program was a hidden subsidy for public education and had questionable results. Americans for Prosperity recommended that the money should instead be given as an income tax credit for stay-at-home moms.

Law officials criticized that Americans for Prosperity position as unrealistic.

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