Illinois police officers would like to put themselves out of business. But not because they’re looking for an early retirement, they’d just prefer to see kids in a cap and gown than an orange jumpsuit. In September, nine representatives of the Illinois police force came together at the Cook County Jail to promote a seemingly unconventional crime fighting strategy: early childhood education.
These officers have teamed up with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, a Robert R. McCormick Foundation grantee, to help the public understand that the path to that orange jumpsuit starts at birth. The organization partners with law enforcement officials across the state of Illinois to prevent crime and educate the public on strategies and policies that can help keep kids in school and out of jails.
It was a powerful image to watch inmates mill about as Sherriff Tom Dart and police chiefs from Cook County and surrounding suburbs called upon Congress to implement a proposed state-federal partnership that would expand high-quality early learning opportunities for Illinois students. Their recently released report, “I’m the Guy You Pay Later” gives shocking statistics that show investment in these opportunities could save money, and more importantly, our children.
While crime prevention may seem like an unusual reason to support early care and education, it is critical to understanding the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of our youngest children through public and private high-quality early learning programs. We’re proud to support the efforts of Fight Crime Illinois and hope to see this state-federal partnership become a reality. It’s time to give access to early education to all children so we can improve lives, support our communities and support our dedicated law enforcement officers.