I was encouraged to see in the news that seven San Benito schools will offer full-day pre-K to students starting this school year (“San Benito now offering full day pre-kindergarten,” August 2, 2018.) I was born and raised in San Benito and the future of our community is an issue I take personally. I am also a Sheriff who has spent many years in law enforcement, and I know quality early learning programs have a positive impact not only on children’s educational outcomes, but on our communities’ public safety.
Research shows that kids — especially at-risk kids — who participate in high-quality pre-K programs are more likely to arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed.
They are more likely to stay in school, graduate on time, and avoid future run-ins with the law. According to research cited by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, one study of a quality pre-k program in Chicago found that children who did not participate in the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 compared to their peers.
Another study found that children who attended full-day pre-K had higher school readiness scores and better attendance than children who attended partday pre-K. Shifting the San Benito pre-K programs away from half-day also means a wider spread of children in our community will experience the benefits of quality early learning, as many working parents rely on the availability of full-day programs.
When you consider the impact of high-quality pre-K on reducing future crime and its related costs, it’s clear San Benito will continue to benefit from this decision for years to come.
I encourage the Texas Legislature to prioritize pre-K funding in its next session to ensure all of our state’s communities see these same public safety outcomes.
Omar Lucio Olmito