Visiting McBeth Learning CenterPlainfield, Illinois- Local law-enforcement leaders expressed strong support for preschool efforts during a visit to a state-funded prekindergarten program at Bonnie McBeth Learning Center in Plainfield today. They were joined by State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and Representative Mark Batinick in reading to a classroom of young children.

State leaders should protect and bolster high-quality preschool as a critical strategy for reducing crime, lowering prison costs and saving taxpayers money, said Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes, who is also the President of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.  Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek and Shorewood Police Chief Aaron Klima agreed.

"Public safety starts with good law enforcement, and we work hard every day to keep our streets safe," Chief Konopek said.   "But there is no question that the best way to fight crime is to do whatever it takes to ensure today's children do not grow-up to become tomorrow's criminal statistics."

"Today's four-year-olds are the future of our communities," added Chief Klima.  "If we're serious about solving the crime problem, we've got to be serious about giving kids the skills they need to grow up to be productive, law-abiding adults-- starting with quality preschool."

Pointing to evidence that preschool prevents future violent crimes and saves taxpayer dollars, the law-enforcement leaders commended Governor Rauner for requesting a $25 million increase in the state preschool budget for Fiscal Year 2016 and urged the General Assembly to add to it. A $50 million boost to the Early Childhood Block Grant would help Illinois leverage important federal-grant dollars newly designated for Illinois and focus intensive help on some of the state's highest-need 4-year-olds.

"The old expression holds that crime doesn't pay. But like it or not, we all pay the costs for crime," Chief Hayes said. "High quality preschool helps us prevent crimes and save money, paying now to avoid paying much greater costs later."

Repeated cuts in funding already have taken preschool services from almost 600 young children in Will and Kendall Counties. Across the state, more than 20,000 children- 3 ·and 4 years old­ have lost access to state-supported preschools like that-at Bonnie McBeth Learning Center.

There remain more than 10,000 Will and Kendall County kids, 3 and 4 years old, whose families cannot afford to pay for such high-quality preschool help on their own.  Failing to help them means that everyone else pays more in various ways, ranging from prison expenses to the many costs associated with violent crimes.

Law enforcement's experience reflects the rigorous research that supports the value of preschool.

Michigan's Perry Preschool study tracked at-risk children who attended the program and similar children who did not.  By age 27, non-participants were five times more likely to have been arrested for drug felonies and twice as likely as former preschool students to have been arrested for violent crimes. By age 40, non-participants were 85 percent more likely than their preschool peers to have been sentenced to prison or jail.

A similar study of Chicago's publicly funded Child-Parent Centers found that kids left-out of that preschool program were 27 percent more likely to have been arrested by age 28 than those who had participated.

Chief Hayes, Chiefs Konopek, and Chief Klima are among 300 members of FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN Kms ILLINOIS, the state office of a national, non-profit, bipartisan, anti-crime organization  of more  than  5,000 police  chiefs,  sheriffs, prosecutors,  leaders of law enforcement organizations,  and victims  of crime.

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