Guest column: Investing now in children pays long-term dividends

By Bonnie Dumanis

San Diego County District Attorney

Leaders in the Assembly and Senate have introduced the Kindergarten Readiness Act (SB 837), which would expand and streamline our early education programs in order to more effectively serve young children in California. The legislation would provide at least one year of transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds; low-income children would be eligible for two years.

The bill is certainly a step in the right direction. Children who participate in high-quality early education programs are much more likely to graduate from high school, which in turn decreases their likelihood of criminal involvement. In fact, one study found that kids left out of one quality preschool program were 39 percent more likely to go to jail or prison than participating children from similar backgrounds.

Unfortunately, the American Institute for Research estimates only 41 percent of eligible low-income 3- and 4-year-olds in San Diego County are enrolled in federal and state-funded preschool programs. And only a quarter of all 4-year-olds are currently eligible for transitional kindergarten. Researchers estimate that if we could increase graduation rates by 10 percentage points, murders and assaults would fall by 20 percent. This could ultimately prevent 15 murders and more than 1,500 aggravated assaults in San Diego County each year, simply by graduating more students.

Our current system leaves too many children failing in school, turning to crime, and winding up in prison — all at a huge cost to California taxpayers. According to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a research-based organization that I am proud to be a part of, increasing our investment in high-quality early education could save $1.1 billion per year by reducing the prison population by 13,000 prisoners. Economists estimate that every dollar invested in early education provides up to $16 in benefits overall, not only in reduced crime but from reduced use of special education, increased graduation rates, higher income levels, and the resulting increase in tax revenues.

All of this research confirms what we’ve learned from experience: The earlier we intervene, the better off our children will fare in the long run. Instead of relying just on arrests and incarceration, we need to focus upstream and help create early learners who take pride in becoming strong students.

2014 is poised to be a momentous year for early childhood education — both at the state and federal levels. In California, early education for all 4-year-olds will lead more kids to success in school, increase high school graduation rates, and save taxpayers millions of dollars for years to come. The path is clear: Investing in early childhood education is the safest, most secure path toward the future.

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Posted by Staff on Jan 23 2014. Filed under Editorial, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Comments for “Guest column: Investing now in children pays long-term dividends”

  1. anon2

    First 5 is a great thing. Early education is a great thing. I personally know of certain low income groups that have been allowed high quality preschool at no cost. NONE. Not one dime. Consistently they have brought their youngster at all hours of the day, so there is no predictability. Worse, the children have missed on average about 70 school days. So thees parent(s) not paying a dime for a free education at an early age in a high quality program still fail. What is better than free?

    Quit blaming the schools and start blaming the non-interested loser parent(s) who haven't a clue about how to raise children. They know how to make them and they know how to blame everybody else and that's it.

    I know which district is doing this and the failure rate is soooo sad.

  2. guest

    Will SB 837 ensure that all children will be brought to school every day at the same time and will this bill ensure the parents actively play a role in their child's education? Finally, will this bill ensure all parents will also work with their child's teacher for the benefit of the child?

    If anything I mentioned above is answered, "No" then this bill WILL NOT WORK.

  3. ckcredentials

    There are federal guidelines regarding what education is required for teachers and teacher's aides or instructional assistants. Interestingly, the federal programs are exempt from the same educational requirements. If I have my pre-k child in a program, I would ask the educational background from everybody that is allowed to teach or assist in my child's classroom.

    Do you want your pre-k in a class where the TA or IA has taken no child development courses. They are out there.

  4. Frank

    The "current system', along with this latest scheme, is all part of the Communist plan to destroy America by offering up yet another solution to a massive problem they created – the welfare state. Intact, well-functioning traditional families are an enemy to the state. Separating children from parents by "intervening" and institutionalizing them early in life is how you help to further destroy the traditional family as the ideal social unit. Parental abandonment of child rearing; denigration of the role of father in the black family; no-fault easy divorce; the elimination of legal protection of the unborn (abortion); same sex marriage; pervasive financial welfare allowing men, as providers, to be dispensable to women and mother; government run welfare programs for the elderly which free adult children from taking responsibility for their elderly parents; etc., are just a few of the things that the Communists use to do away with the family and individual personal responsibility to it. Our Communist infested government intends to own and control all persons and property in America and in doing so they will, like the Communists have done everyplace else they've infested, create a country that, in the end, isn't worth owning.

  5. Amy Roost

    "School doesn’t exist for your benefit or the benefit of your parents; schools exist for the benefit of me. The reason why I pay taxes for schools even though I don’t have a kid in school is that I am better off in a well-educated world. Public education isn’t a charity project; I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better. I want you to make me beautiful books that will bring me pleasure and consolation; I want you to make me cooler cars for me to drive in, drugs so I can live a longer, healthier life. I’m paying for your education in the hopes that you invent a microwave pizza with actually crispy crust and that you’ll spread the availability of the internet so I can get more youtube views in Zambia. Your education isn’t just about you; your nation is making an investment in you because they believe that you are worth it."

    — John Green

  6. guest

    Finally, Amy, I love it. WE AGREE. wait. You quoted someone else. Drats.

    No matter how you slice it, non-involved parents have drastic affects on the childs life. Dont be a DNA donor…be a parent.

    • Amy Roost

      You state the obvious, guest. Non-involve parents make for bad parents. I'm pretty sure that your telling them to be good parents isn't going to solve the problem. How do we not condemn their children and their children's children to the same fate is the more salient question.

      I'm sure you support all methods of contraception, but even the best contraception fails sometimes. The question is what to do when it does. Or when it's not used at all by people not ready to parent?

      To argue that SB837 would not work for children of deadbeat parents doesn't mean it wouldn't work at all. Unless you assume all children living in poverty have deadbeat parents. So easy to shoot it down for not working for every child, but what about those it does help? And what's your alternative?? You never seem to offer one….crickets…

  7. guest

    Quit blaming the teachers. They are not realoy the problem. The problem is low information voters thinking your president is really going to solve everything. I already made my point. Perhaps you should re-read.


    • Amy Roost


      I don't see the word "teachers" in my comment. Do you? It's difficult to debate with you when you make things up.

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