I was encouraged to see my former law enforcement colleague Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell’s wise words about the importance of protecting Head Start (“Head Start a worthy investment for Maine,” March 5). Quality early education programs, including Head Start, are important to society for so many reasons. Chief Crowell focused on one of the most compelling: long-term crime reduction.

I agree entirely, especially as someone who was also once a police chief. Today, though, I am a businessman and the case for investing in quality early education has tremendous appeal from that perspective, as well.

We know that the key to a strong future work force is making sure that Maine’s children have the skills they need. That means laying the foundation for academic success by teaching early math, early reading and social-emotional skills, even before these kids get to kindergarten.

Research backs up that idea. A recent study out of Tulsa, highlighted by the business-leader group ReadyNation, showed that Head Start participants scored higher on the state math achievement test in seventh grade, were 31 percent less likely to have been held back, and were 34 percent less likely to be chronically absent in eighth grade, compared to those who didn’t attend pre-K.

I want a better future for Maine’s kids, and a better work force for Maine’s economy. That’s why I join Chief Crowell in urging state policymakers to protect — and increase — funding for quality early learning programs such as Head Start.

Bill Welch, Lewiston

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