A valuable program
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The editorial “Fight crime? A dubious program” (Sept. 9 and TribLIVE.com) unfairly criticized our Fight Crime: Invest in Kids report. The Chicago preschool research dismissed in the editorial was published in premier peer-reviewed journals, including The Journal of the American Medical Association.
That program's impact on crime and other outcomes supported earlier Perry Preschool research showing, for example, that by age 40, the individuals served were 46 percent less likely to have been sentenced to prison or jail. Among more recent studies, disadvantaged children served across New Jersey were held back in school by fourth and fifth grade 40 percent less often and were placed in special education 31 percent less often.
Our projection on reducing the number of prisoners by 10 percent was acknowledged as a conservative but simple estimate, so we also presented a rigorous review of over 20 preschool evaluations showing that net benefits to society averaged $15,000 per child served.
The editorial's suggestion that the above research may not apply to many middle-class children is irrelevant because the proposed state/federal preschool expansion will serve poor or near-poor families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. Finally, we urged that existing programs not yet achieving strong results learn from those that are.
High-quality preschool works and deserves our support.
William Christeson & Sandra Bishop-Josef
The writers are research director and deputy director of research, respectively, for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (fightcrime.org).
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