PENNSYLVANIA Group urges more preschool funding



A survey says kids do better in school by attending pre-kindergarten programs.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A statewide crime-fighting group used a national poll of kindergarten teachers to illustrate the need for more preschool education funding, saying that early investments can reduce youth crime and violence.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania has called for increased federal and state funding to expand access to pre-kindergarten. The National Kindergarten Teacher Survey reinforces its position, Bruce R. Clash, the group's state director, said at a news conference Wednesday at a Pittsburgh preschool.
The telephone survey of 800 kindergarten teachers conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research last month found 86 percent of the educators thought children in their classes last year who attended pre-kindergarten will do better in school than the children who did not attend pre-kindergarten.
What teachers said
Most of the teachers who participated in the survey said pupils who attended quality preschool programs were more likely to get along with others and were less likely to be disruptive in class.
Nine in 10 teachers surveyed thought more children would succeed in school if all families had access to pre-kindergarten programs, because educators would spend less time focusing on troubled pupils, Clash said.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization of more than 150 victims of violence, police chiefs, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials. It advocates that an investment in early-childhood education, after-school programs, child-abuse prevention and intervention projects will help reduce crime.
The state group is part of a national group claims more than 2,500 law enforcement officials, crime victims, criminologists and child development experts as members.
The national group had similar news conferences Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Portland, Maine; Portland, Ore.; Rockford, Ill.; and Washington, D.C.
"Research also shows that high-quality, pre-kindergarten programs reduce the risk that children will grow up to be delinquent later in life," Clash said.
The survey unveiled Wednesday did not draw any conclusions between crime or delinquency and preschool education.
National report
But the national organization released a report last fall based on a 22-year study of the High/Scope Perry Preschool in Ypsilaniti, Mich. At-risk 3- and 4-year-olds left out of the program were five times more likely to become chronic lawbreakers by the time they turned 27 compared with the children in the program.
There's a large amount of research that supports the idea that early quality interaction between children and adults prevents delinquency later, said David Myers, associate professor of criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
"The idea is to set kids up for success, instead of waiting until more serious problems come about and reacting to them," Myers said.
According to preliminary figures from Gov. Ed Rendell's office, 40 of the state's 501 school districts plan to fund preschool programs with the state's new block grants. The state separately has set aside $15 million to expand the federally funded Head Start program that provides preschool services for children from low-income families.

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