A recent news report linking increased criminal behavior to young people who have failed academically was, sadly, not a surprise (“Early-childhood education promoted as key to fighting crime in Maine,” Oct. 3.)

There is additional tough news for policymakers: An estimated 75 percent of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 cannot qualify for military service.

People are shocked when they hear this, and they should be. It means that the vast majority of our young people are losing out on the opportunity to serve their country. It also means our nation’s military readiness could be in jeopardy.

Policymakers should understand that high-quality pre-K programs are one of the best ways to address these challenges.

Numerous studies of high-quality early learning programs have shown that students from such programs have greater academic successes, are less likely to drop out of school and turn to crime, are more likely to seek education beyond high school, are more likely to be employed as adults, and are higher wage earners.

Work is being done in Congress to craft a state-federal partnership proposal that could lead to at least 6,700 more high school graduates in Maine and at least $500 million in economic benefits for the state. Nationwide, the 10-year proposal could lead to 2 million more high school graduates and $150 billion in net economic benefits to society.

This is great news for anyone who cares about academic achievement for our children, the strength of our economy and the needs our military faces in the years to come.

Earl Adams

Retired major general, U.S. Army