Law enforcement officials and state Rep. Welch visited Washington Dual Language Academy on Monday. | Photo provided

Two area police chiefs and a state legislator recently visited a prekindergarten class in Maywood to read to students and show their support for additional preschool funding.

Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley and Forest Park Police Chief Thomas Aftanas joined with state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) on Sept. 17 in reading to a classroom of preschoolers at Washington Dual Language Academy, 1111 Washington Blvd. in Maywood.

According to a statement released by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, an anti-crime nonprofit whose membership includes Talley and Aftanas, among other law enforcement officials across the state, the chiefs strongly support increasing the Illinois State Board of Education’s Early Childhood Block Grant for the 2020 fiscal year by $50 million.

Welch is a strong supporter of the funding boost, which Fight Crime noted would “allow for essential quality improvements and expansion of full-day slots available for children in need.”

“The state has heavily invested in the district’s Preschool for All program because it’s been proven that preschool cuts crime,” Welch noted in a statement.

Fight Crime referenced a study that tracked at-risk children who attended Perry Preschool in Michigan and “similar children who did not.”

According to the study, by “the age of 27, non-participants were five times more likely to have been arrested for drug felonies and twice as likely as former preschool students to have been arrested for violent crimes. By age 40, non-participants were 85 percent more likely than their preschool peers to have been sentenced to prison or jail.”

Another study, similar to the Michigan one, found that kids left out of publicly funded Child-Parent Centers in Chicago “were 27 percent more likely to have been arrested by age 28 than those who had participated.”

As a result of a $50 million boost in the Early Childhood Block Grant for the 2019 fiscal year, Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview Elementary Schools District 89 received $1.2 million, which allowed the district to increase the number of 3- and 4-year-old students in the preschool program from 160 to 148.

“The children in this building are the future of our communities,” said Talley. “The skills they are learning in these classrooms are what they will need to grow up to be law-abiding adults.”

Aftanas said the “best way to keep our streets safe is to ensure that today’s children do not grow up to become tomorrow’s crime statistics.”