Release | April 22, 2022

Maine Could See A $240 Million Return on Investment if Federal Pre-K Proposals Become Law

New economic analysis from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids shows powerful returns on investments through early childhood measures

A new Fight Crime: Invest in Kids research report makes a compelling case that recent state and Congressional preschool investment proposals could provide a strong, long-term, net return on investment (ROI). Maine, for example, could reap an ROI of $240 million if federal early childhood education measures become law.

The report, Preschool Key to Boosting School Success and Enhancing Public Safety, noted that the federal proposal would allow 16,000 more children to attend preschool in Maine alone. Each one of those children represents a lifetime return on investment of slightly over $15,000, leading to the state’s $240 million ROI. Nationwide, six million additional children would be able to attend preschool as a result of this expansion, with a long-term return on investment of $90 billion.

In addition, Maine members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids supported the new $10 million in PreK expansion and infrastructure grants made possible this year through federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. The first round of pre-K expansion projects, including one in Bangor, were announced in January and the second round of grants are expected this fall.

“To some, my supporting for preschool may be unexpected,” said Augusta Chief of Police Jared Mills, who is also President of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. “But I know from my career in law enforcement that the high-quality early learning taking place in pre-K settings every day helps us keep our communities safe and reduces later crime.”

Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton, Immediate Past President of the Maine Sheriff Association agrees. “Any news that pre-K programs are expanding across our state and in our communities is truly exciting,” Morton said. “Maine Chiefs and Sheriffs have long supported investments in the education and development of our youngest citizens as a critical crime prevention tool. High-quality pre-K programs help lay the foundation for a positive future for kids. Without such programs, many kids do not see their own potential, and we risk having too many kids falling through the cracks, making poor choices, or even participating in criminal behavior.”

The research brief highlights an independent cost-benefit analysis that found an average per-child societal “profit” of more than $15,000—and applies it to the additional children served by the preschool provisions.

This ROI comes via several factors, including increased test scores, which are associated with higher earnings in adulthood, as well as decreases in costs to society, such as expenses created by children being held back in school or needing special education.

Decades of research show that the experiences children have in their earliest years, during a period of critical brain growth, set the foundation for future development and success. Voluntary, quality preschool education can improve academic performance—including high school graduation—and reduce the risk that participants will become involved in crime later.

Children who attend high-quality preschool are more likely to arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, with enhanced early math, language, and literacy skills. They’re also less likely to be held back in school or to need special education, and more likely to be proficient in reading and math. Preschool participants have an increased probability of graduating from high school. Students who participate in high-quality preschool are also less likely to have behavioral infractions in elementary and middle school and to be suspended from high school.

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