Hogan, area DAs push for PreK to cut crime


Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan speaks at a legislative breakfast Wednesday in support of expansion of funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

KING OF PRUSSIA — Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan and other southeast Pennsylvania prosecutors came out strong this week to support an initiative by Gov. Tom Wolf to fund pre-kindergarten programs as a long-term way to boost high school graduation and cut crime in the commonwealth.

Hogan and the other southeast region district attorneys who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids participated in a regional Pre-K for PA legislative breakfast Wednesday to release a new report – We’re The Guys You Pay Later – documenting how Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed $120 million state funding increase for high-quality pre-kindergarten programs could boost high school graduation rates, reduce the number of people who are incarcerated in Pennsylvania and lead to more than $350 million annually in Corrections and other cost savings to society over the lifetimes of the children served.

Delaware County District Attorney John J. Whelan, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams joined Hogan to participate in a panel discussion that focused on research documenting the impact of high-quality early childhood programs on educational and life outcomes for at-risk children and the resulting crime reduction.

“I know from years of experience that we can’t simply arrest, prosecute and incarcerate our way out of our crime problems,” said Ferman. “We have to implement strategies that keep people from turning to crime in the first place. High-quality pre-k is one of those strategies.”

The new report makes the case that by the time at-risk children get to kindergarten, many are already behind in vocabulary development and pre-literacy and pre-math skills. They can also have problems with behavior and impulse control – which makes it hard to get along with other kids and teachers. The report cites state and national research studies showing that quality early learning programs have been proven to reduce these disadvantages and in many cases eliminate the need for special education and other costly interventions.

“The problem is that too few of our 3 and 4-year-olds have access to high quality Pre-K,” said Williams. “In Philadelphia alone, 25,000 young children lack access and when you look at Southeast Pennsylvania overall – that number climbs to more than 65,000 three and four year-olds each year.”

The district attorneys urged state lawmakers to further expand funding for high-quality early childhood education to reduce the unmet need in southeast Pennsylvania and across the Commonwealth. Currently only 19 percent of all three- and four-year-olds in Pennsylvania have access to publicly-funded pre-k.

Whelan cited an independent cost-benefit analysis of more than 20 different studies of pre-kindergarten programs showing that pre-k can return, on average, a “profit” (economic benefits minus costs) to society of over $26,000 for every child served.

“Applying this figure to the 14,000 additional children that would be served in the pre-k expansion proposal being discussed in Harrisburg means our state could reap a return of more than $350 million over the lifetime of these children,” said Whelan.

Currently, Pennsylvania spends more than $2 billion annually¾about seven percent of the state budget¾to house about 50,000 inmates.

“We all would rather see kids in graduation caps and gowns instead of handcuffs and prison uniforms,” said Hogan.  “Higher graduation rates, lower crime and incarceration rates, and lower costs to taxpayers are why our state needs to do everything possible to expand access to high-quality early learning programs.”

The District Attorneys joined southeast Pennsylvania state legislators, community and business leaders, former Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley and former PA National Guard Adjutant General Wesley Craig at a regional breakfast co-hosted by PNC Bank and the Pre-K for PA Campaign.

State legislators are currently debating Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state budget that includes a significant increase in state funding to support high-quality pre-k programs across Pennsylvania with an additional investment of $120 million in early learning dollars to serve about 14,000 more early learners.  The governor’s budget proposal increases funding by $100 million for the state’s Pre-K Counts program and adds $20 million to support the Head Start State Supplemental program.

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