WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) - Putting our best foot forward couldn't carry anymore weight then when it comes to investing in our kids futures.
And that's why police, prosecutors and educators gathered at Denning Elementary School in West Frankfort on Thursday afternoon. They all wanted to show their support for the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids program in Illinois.
But, cuts to preschool programs by the State of Illinois over the past four years are jeopardizing thousands of kids futures.
And prosecutors say we can either pay now for the programs, or pay a lot more later on when the kids grow up.
"It's about making an investment, spending dimes now rather then dollars later to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate," said Union County State's Attorney Tyler Edmonds. "At an early age unfortunately in school you can often predict whose going to end up having contact with the criminal justice system. And that's why we're here, that's why as law enforcement officers we're concerned about preschool and early education."
Chicago's Child-Parent Centers research showed that kids who are not in a preschool program were 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18, compared to kids from the same neighborhoods who were involved in early education programs.
And educators say the benefits of preschool can be seen later on the child's academic scores too.
"If you were to look at some research and look at ISAT tests in Illinois for 4th graders, 8th graders and 12th graders that attended high quality early childhood programming," said Diane Richey curriculum coordinator at SIUC's Southern Region Early Childhood Programs. "The results are they score higher on those tests across the board, then children that do not attend preschool."
Some parents also say they can see the affects of an early education in their children.
"She learns a lot, her development and everything is actually a lot it's growing," said Kristi Shideler of West Frankfort. "And she can say her ABC's. And she can do lots of things now. It's really good."
Without an early childhood program to support kids development academically and psychologically, falling through the cracks doesn't compare to what can happen to them later on in life.
"Children who do not get the proper education, or are not properly provided preschool and quality preschool are victims of crime," said Franklin County State's Attorney Evan Owens. "They come into the criminal justice system as delinquent children. They come to the criminal justice system as adult criminals."
The State of Illinois has cut funding for the Early Childhood Education Block Grant by $80-million dollars over the past four years. Which is putting more then 22,000 kids at risk who are no longer enrolled in a preschool program.