Jason Moen

Recently, I had the privilege of addressing the Maine Legislature’s Children’s Caucus regarding the importance of providing high-quality early learning and quality child care for our working families.

You might wonder why a police chief is interested in pre-K and child care. I believe, as do many other members of law enforcement, that prevention has got to be one of the weapons we use to fight crime in our cities and neighborhoods. Statistics show us that quality programs that help children get the right start in life reduce the chances of these children growing up and committing crimes.

As a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national crime-prevention organization made up of thousands of law enforcement members in all 50 states, I see the research that shows high-quality childhood programs are a good investment to reduce the high cost of Maine’s criminal justice system.

We know from this research, as well as from our own professional experiences, that a child who is successful in school is more likely to avoid brushes with the law as he or she grows up. Several studies show the connection between high-quality early education programs and long-term crime prevention.

One study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was released just a year ago found that kids who had been through the Boston preschool program were less likely to be incarcerated in a juvenile facility during high school, compared to kids in Boston who hadn’t been a part of the program.

In my own city of Auburn, we have seen encouraging results with our pre-K programs. Students participating in Auburn’s program achieved higher scores on the kindergarten screening assessment in comparison to students who were not enrolled.


According to Auburn’s spring 2022 kindergarten screening data, the average score for students enrolled in Auburn’s pre-K program was 85%, in comparison to 77% for students not enrolled. In addition, the 2022 Fall Northwest Evaluation Association assessment showed kindergarten students who had previously been enrolled in Auburn’s pre-K program during the 2021-22 school year demonstrated proficiency levels of 99% in literacy and 95% in math.

Maine has made solid strides on public pre-K in recent years, but we still have a way to go. Public pre-K is offered in about 75% of our school districts, although not all districts have yet been able to make it available to all 4-year-olds.

Unfortunately, there is a wide geographic disparity in public pre-K across Maine. Aroostook and Washington counties have already achieved universal public pre-K. However, some southern and coastal counties serve less than 30% of their 4-year-olds in public programs.

Another important early childhood area of interest and concern is high-quality child care. We all support the child care workforce, which is the workforce that supports all the other workforces in Maine.

Just as our police departments stayed open during the pandemic because we were considered essential services, so did many child care programs, even when schools closed. They did this so they could serve families of first responders, medical professionals and many others who would not have been able to go to work without reliable child care for their children. The child care providers I know in Auburn are some of our hardest workers, although many make just slightly above minimum wage.

That’s why I am pleased to support continued and increased funding for continued pre-K expansion and our child care workforce. I encourage all policymakers to act in a bipartisan fashion and give those proposals their strong support as well.

Law enforcement will tell you that it’s far better to keep kids away from crime in the first place, rather than to try and reform those kids after they become involved with the criminal justice system.

The law enforcement leaders of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids continue to call on all Maine lawmakers and the governor to invest in funding for these programs that help ensure safer communities with more children who grow up to have a real opportunity at a violence-free and crime-free life.

Jason Moen is chief of police in Auburn and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

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