Local law, police agencies voice support for pre-K education to combat crime

Clay Campbell, DeKalb County State’s Attorney, said at a news conference Tuesday he considers parents and teachers as the front line of law enforcement.

“Great teachers, great parents, great administrators, those are the ones that keep kids out of trouble,” Campbell said. “I think it’s always important to remind ourselves of that fact.”

Parents and teachers have that opportunity through an early-childhood education in DeKalb program which focuses on fighting crime through prevention, called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois.

Campbell spoke about the importance of pre-school education in promoting safe communities at Tyler Elementary School, 1021 Alden Circle. He was joined by state Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley), state Sen. Christine Johnson, and DeKalb Police Lt. Carl Leoni for the news conference. Reading to pre-school classes followed the conference.

“The important thing we need to realize here is that this is a partnership, a community that is working together to teach our children, protect our children,” Johnson said. “The state of Illinois has a duty to invest in our children.”

Andria Mitchell, principal of Tyler Elementary School, said the conference was held in partnership with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois.

“The research tells us that pre-k programs help children enter kindergarten ready to learn, ready to succeed in life,” said Micki Chulick, executive director of 4-C.

Chulick said 4-C stands for Community Coordinated Child Care, which serves parents and families across six counties through social work, nursing and assistance for working families. 4-C also offers parenting classes and child care.

Campbell said rising rates of childhood poverty is a leading risk factor for crime.

“According to the last census here in DeKalb County, 42 percent of 3 and 4-year-olds in DeKalb County are living in poverty right now,” Chulick said.

Campbell said Illinois has decreased its investment into the state-funded pre-school program.

“It is intolerable to see a reduction in programs that benefit so many kids like these,” Campbell said. “I haven’t heard one citizen opposed to pre-K education.”

Tim Carpenter, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids state director, said statistically, at 28 years old, those who did not attend pre-school were 27 percent more likely to have been arrested for a felony and 39 percent more likely to have spent time in jail or prison.

Carpenter said the studies originated from the Child Parent Center and are the longest follow-up ever of an established large-scale early childhood program.

“Four classrooms here in DeKalb County did not open their doors to pre-schoolers this fall, which is a 16 percent reduction in the kids served by this program,” Campbell said. “That is a tragedy.”

Campbell said he is only one of the 325 law enforcement officials including sheriffs, police chiefs, state’s attorneys, and more that are a part of Fight Crime: Law Enforcement Illinois. Campbell said according to the FBI’s annual crime statistics, violent crime has decreased nationally by 6.5 percent. Pre-school programs like the one at Tyler Elementary are critical in continuing the statistical decline of violent crime in the U.S., Campbell said.

Pritchard said the state has to set priorities and focus on things that will make the most impact.

“It’s so critical that we get students on the right path,” he said. “This is a prime example of good investments and good priorities.”