Reading to kids

District Attorney Ron Brown, left, Astoria Police Chief Geoff Spalding, center, and Warrenton Police Chief Mathew Workman led a storytime for children from five prekindergarten centers.

Local law enforcement leaders gathered Thursday in Astoria to urge the state to invest more in prekindergarten.

Astoria Police Chief Geoff Spalding, Warrenton Police Chief Mathew Workman and District Attorney Ron Brown attended a press conference at Gray School joined by Martha Brooks, the state director for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Northwest Early Learning Hub director Dorothy Spence and Astoria School District Superintendent Craig Hoppes.

Spalding, Workman and Brown are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and they shared insights from the organization’s new report, Oregon Kids Soar with Early Education Investments. Following the press conference, they led a storytime for children from five prekindergarten centers.

The law enforcement leaders recognized the recent state investment into prekindergarten through the Student Success Act, but stressed the need for more resources.

“While we are extremely excited to have more investments in the community, we need to keep our eye on the ball and continue to invest in pre-K, or spend millions on remedial education and public safety if the investment falls short,” Spalding said.

The Student Success Act will increase funding for prekindergarten statewide by $75 million over the next two years. That will allow 5,200 more eligible students to attend prekindergarten through Head Start, Oregon Pre-Kindergarten and Preschool Promise.

“Unfortunately that doesn’t come close to expanding access to more than 20,000 eligible children who don’t have the opportunity to attend,” Brown said.

“That’s bad news for many of our kids and their families, bad news for everyone who cares about future crime and really bad news for taxpayers.”

Clatsop County schools will not know how much of the Student Success Act money will be allocated locally until March.

“I know with the Student Success Act there’s opportunities, but even when I look at the number of slots possible there is still not enough to cover statewide what we need to have, so we would like to continue to expand it,” Hoppes said.

Workman pointed to the ability for prekindergarten to cut the proportion of children at risk for problematic behavior and reduce the likelihood for later infractions.

“ … The three problems we are continually facing — funding, access and quality — are going to keep our early education system from delivering the results taxpayers expect,” Workman said.

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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