Rockford leaders want to combat crime by investing in early childhood education

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Kids today are the leaders of tomorrow and research finds they are most successful when they begin their education in preschool.

“These kids growing up now will run Rockford in 15 and 20 years from now," said Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea.

O'Shea along with other city leaders and local politicians read to kids at Summerdale Early Learning Center as a part of an initiative through Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois. The organization makes up nearly 330 police chiefs, sheriff's and state's attorneys.

“This is a group that takes a hard look at the available research that reduces crime and violence in the long term and then advocates for policymakers to prioritize their solutions for this,” O’Shea said.

Some of the recent research found by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids shows those students who attend high-quality preschools are more adapt to learning in kindergarten.

"They have self-regulation, that if a friend takes a toy I’m not going to haul off and hit him," said Kim Nelson, executive director of early childhood for Rockford Public Schools.

Learning at a young age also keeps kids out of trouble as they get older.

"Early childhood education is the equalizer to prevent children from entering a life full of crime," said Winnebago County State’s Attorney, Marilyn Hite Ross.

And local politicians want to help by providing more funding for schools like Summerdale.
"We have a $15 billion overall unpaid bills. When we look at the prioritizing of what we actually need to spend money on this is one of those things we need to do," said State Representative John Cabello.

"We'll find better academic outcomes, better graduation rates and making sure they stay on the right path in life,” said Illinois Senator Steve Stadelman.

Stadleman plans to push for more early childhood programs during next month when the general assembly takes a look at the New Year budget.