D.A. Ramos to discuss funding for early education
03.26.2012 | San Bernardino County Sun | Mike Cruz
District Attorney Michael A. Ramos joined law enforcement leaders from throughout the state on Monday, calling for state policymakers to spend more on early education programs as a way to reduce costs associated with crime.
Ramos joined a teleconference detailing state spending on corrections vs. spending on early education.
The conference highlighted the fact that 10 times more is spent on corrections than early education programs statewide.
California spends $7.8 billion dollars to house, clothe and feed convicted criminals, while just $784 million is spent on high-quality, early education programs, Ramos said. He was concerned about a proposed $180 million cut to educational programs that could affect 8,000 schoolchildren in San Bernardino County.
Both Ramos and Scott Seaman, police chief of Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, called on policymakers to protect funding for educational programs such as preschool and transitional kindergarten.
“It’s like that old commercial, `Pay now, or pay later,”‘ Ramos said.
Educational programs that reach kids at an impressionable age are a good vehicle for preventing crime in the first place, Ramos said. He described the proposed cuts as “a tough pill to swallow,” considering how much investing in prevention could save the state in corrections over the long run.
“We do a good job of (incarcerating criminals),” Ramos said. “But we’ve got to figure out something on the front end.”
The teleconference with Ramos and Seaman served as a preview of a report to be released today by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, a San Francisco-based, bipartisan, anti-crime organization involving 400 sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys and victims of violence.
The report, “Pay Now or Pay Much More Later,” will show that investing more in voluntary, high-quality, early education programs reduces crime and can save money by reducing criminal justice costs, the need for special education placements and other K-12 education expenses.
The proposed $180 million in cuts would come on the heels of $70 million in cuts made last year, said Brian Lee, deputy state director of Fight Crime.
“We simply cannot afford to shortchange early education,” Lee said.
Seaman said quality education programs give back 10 dollars in savings for every dollar invested. He described long-term and short-term benefits to saving money in the educational system, such as reducing the need for special education.
“Many of those kids are at risk, and that’s exactly who is going to be served,” said Seaman.
Ramos said incarceration costs California about $43,000 per inmate, per year, while the costs of educating a child are about one-tenth of that.
Ramos, a Fight Crime board member, said the real costs of the state’s funding priorities are seen every day in San Bernardino County. More students are dropping out of high school each day, more young people are using drugs, and more people who have committed crimes are being released early into the community, he said.
The majority of those people, Ramos added, did not have an opportunity to attend preschool, which Fight Crime members say is the best way to give children a strong foundation for social and intellectual growth, as well as help a community build an educated, skilled work force. Ramos said that keeping kids in school is a huge priority for his office.
Seaman said he was struck by the high social costs to a community where there is little investment in early education. Children who are not successful in school face challenges that reduce their ability to function well as adults, he said.
“When kids graduate high school, they are dramatically less likely to be involved in crime or criminal behavior,” said Seaman.
The victimization of communities is not included in the calculation of costs, Seaman said. Criminals often don’t commit just a single offense; there are many more offenses that occur, he said.
Some of those offenses are transparent to the community, Seaman explained. But as those individuals become more sophisticated or serious in their activities, there are public impacts such as property damage or violence, the police chief said.