In this Sept. 16, 2021, file photo Pre-K teacher Vera Csizmadia teaches 3-and 4-year-old students in her classroom at the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center in Palisades Park, N.J. Credit: Mary Altaffer / AP

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Sean Geagan is the Bucksport Chief of Police. Mark Leonard is the Veazie Chief of Police. They have been members of Fight Crime: Invest In Kids since 2002.

As members of Maine’s law enforcement community, we are committed to supporting policies and programs that aim to reduce criminal behavior and keep Maine communities safe. One of the most effective ways to help reduce crime is making sure all kids have access to quality early childhood education. For kids who are at-risk, low-income or do not have the supports they need to thrive, early learning has especially important benefits. It helps keep those kids most at-risk safe, healthy and on a path to do well in life. It is a priority for us that all Maine kids get a strong start in life.

In our line of work, we rely on evidence. It drives our investigations and conclusions. That commitment to evidence is one reason we’re excited to share a new research report. Entitled “Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, Prosecutors, and Violence Survivors: ‘Preschool Works,” the report is a summary of research detailing the impact early learning has on long-term crime prevention. This evidence reinforces the idea that early learning improves outcomes for kids and makes our communities safer.  

 The timing of the report’s release coincides with the 25th anniversary of the organization behind the report, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. The organization’s membership, including both of us for nearly 20 years, now tops 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, other law enforcement executives and violence survivors from across the country. Together, these members promote evidence-based national and state-level solutions that reduce crime.

Since 1996, amid debates over the best ways to tackle crime and strengthen public safety, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids has been elevating the voices of the law enforcement community surrounding early education advocacy. We are proud to be part of this work, the people behind it, and the kids we strive to help.

To mark this 25th anniversary, we are leveraging the new report to help spread the word that high-quality early learning programs are a powerful crime prevention tool. Pre-school is a prime example. Decades of research show that high-quality preschool programs set kids up for school readiness and success, increases in reading and math scores that persist, and higher high-school graduation rates. They also decrease behavior problems among kids and reduce crime and incarceration rates.

We are honored to take part in advocating for past and future investments that expand access to early learning programs for kids in every part of Maine. Our state has made many advances recently, including  allocating $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for PreK expansion and $10 million for quality child care infrastructure. Also promising is Maine’s focus on community partnerships between public PreK and child care centers that provide strong early learning programs and meet local needs.

Additionally, Gov. Janet Mills and the legislature have  dedicated significant federal relief funds to buoy Maine’s child care sector, which is now working to recover from challenges that existed before the pandemic, but which got even worse as a result of COVID. State legislative leaders, including Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, have put forth legislation to help strengthen Maine’s child care system and its critical workforce, recognizing that child care is an integral part of early learning and future success.

As we and others who share our commitment to increasing access to high-quality early learning look ahead, we know there is more work to be done at the federal, state, and local levels. We will continue to raise awareness of the importance of early learning in reducing crime, and to advocate for strengthening early education in Maine.

This new report provides key evidence and further validation that past and future investments in quality early childhood education are important for many reasons, including reducing crime and keeping our communities safe. These investments are working, worthy and invaluable for Maine kids and Maine’s future.