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Report: More Evidence That Early Learning Can Reduce Crime

It seems like a no-brainer: Provide kids with high-quality early learning to start them on the road to success and they may be less likely to later end up choosing a life of crime.

Now a new report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national nonprofit organization of law enforcement and legal professionals and violence survivors, provides more evidence to prove the case.

The report focuses on Washington state, and calls upon its leaders to increase spending on high-quality early learning to help reduce crime and save taxpayers' money. Four of the state's top law enforcement officials spoke out about the issue and discussed the report's findings Wednesday on a visit to a Head Start program in that state.

The report highlights the sharp contrast between spending on corrections and on early learning in this country. The "total state and federal corrections spending to house, feed and provide 24-hour supervision of criminals, at $57 billion in 2010, is more than double total state and federal early-care and education spending, at $26 billion," the report says.

It cites several examples of studies showing that children who were shut out of quality early-learning programs were much more likely to be arrested for crimes by the time they became adults. Plus, those who did attend quality programs were more likely to graduate from high school than those who did not.

Other studies have shown that low-quality programs can have negative effects on kids as well, leading to behavior problems and trouble developing academic skills, the report says.

Let's close with these sobering words from the report:

"From a law enforcement perspective, the early-learning quality issue is especially important because it strikes hardest at those most vulnerable—at-risk children. When we shortchange the quality of their care, we increase the risk they will grow up to pose a threat to the rest of us."

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