PORTLAND (AP) – Maine law enforcement officials on Wednesday called for more funding for pre-kindergarten programs as a report was released showing children enrolled in early education programs fared better in school.

A survey of kindergarten teachers across the country found that kids enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs were better prepared to succeed and that poorly prepared kids tended to hold back the rest of the class.

“Kids who benefit from quality pre-kindergarten enter kindergarten prepared to learn. The result is that substantially more children succeed in school, fewer become involved with crime,” said Attorney General Steven Rowe.

Rowe was joined at a news conference at PROP’s East End Children’s Workshop by Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood, a kindergarten teacher and Mary Small from “Fight Crime: Invest in Children.” The survey of 800 teachers by Mason-Dixon Polling was conducted for “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.”

Nearly half of the respondents said at least one of five children was inadequately prepared and 86 percent spend extra time dealing with behavioral issues and helping poorly prepared children catch up.

Two thirds of respondents felt that kids who attended pre-kindergarten were “substantially better prepared” and more than three-quarters reported fewer behavioral problems with kids who attended a pre-k program.

Although the study showed benefits from pre-k programs, the average tuition for pre-kindergarten programs in Maine is $4,899, far too much for most low- or moderate-income families, according to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

Head Start, the principal federal pre-school program for low-income children, serves only three out of five 3- and 4-year-olds under the poverty line across the state, the group contends.

Chitwood cited the example of Ypsilanti, Mich., where children who were not enrolled in a pre-school program were five times more likely to become chronic lawbreakers by the time they reached adulthood.

The program was shown to save $7 for every $1 invested because of reductions in crime and other costs, Chitwood said.

“To keep Maine safe, we need to be as willing to guarantee our kids a space in pre-kindergarten as we are to guarantee a jail cell to a criminal,” he said.

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