I appreciated Gen. Bill Libby’s recent article on the importance of state funding for high-quality early childhood education programs, such as Head Start and pre-kindergarten, especially for Maine’s most vulnerable, at-risk kids (”Mission: High-quality early education,” March 3). Gen. Libby did an excellent job explaining how these early-learning programs impact military readiness and our nation’s security. As police chief of Augusta, and someone who has served my entire career in law enforcement, I know firsthand that they also are a powerful crime prevention tool.

Early-learning programs serve to keep our communities safer in the long term by preventing many of our youth from entering into a life of crime in the future. Research proves this to be true. In a 40-year study of children who attended Perry Preschool in Michigan, researchers discovered that at-risk youth who did not participate in the pre-K program were an astounding five times more likely to be chronic criminal offenders by age 27 than kids who did participate. Conversely, kids who did participate in the program were half as likely to have been sentenced to prison or jail by age 40.

Early-learning programs are an excellent investment in our children, first and foremost, but they also serve to improve the safety of our communities and the quality of life of citizens of our state. We urge Maine lawmakers to not just sustain funding for Maine’s high-quality early-learning programs, but find ways to increase funding and expand participation in them so more Maine kids have a better chance to succeed in life, and grow up to become contributing members of society.

Robert Gregoire

chief of police

Augusta