BAKERSFIELD - Kern County is joining a national effort to get federal funding for preschools. The sheriff, Bakersfield police chief and district attorney say more kids in preschools means fewer inmates in prisons. So, they're asking Congress to invest tens of billions of dollars in early childhood education.
Thursday's event was one of three like it across the nation. Officials hoped to get the attention of Congressman Kevin McCarthy by holding an event in Bakersfield. Kern County's leaders weren't afraid to get a little silly for the cause.
It's not something you see every day. District Attorney Lisa Green singing, Police Chief Greg Williamson molding Playdough, and Sheriff Donny Youngblood doing what 4-year-olds call the wiggle. A silly sight, but with a serious hope that Congress will approve a plan to invest $75 billion over ten years in early childhood education.
"They are our future. Good bad or indifferent, they are our future and it's our obligation to invest money and time in helping those children be good citizens," said Sheriff Youngblood.
Without the investment, officials say these kids are 70 percent more likely to grow up as criminals. According to a report released by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, this funding could lead to 13,000 fewer prisoners in California, saving the state $1.1 billion.
"We'd much rather see kids in caps and gowns than handcuffs and jumpsuits," said Chief Williamson.
But right now, officials say that's not the direction Kern County is headed. This year, the county had 1,100 preschoolers at 13 facilities, down from 1,400 at 15 facilities two years ago. But with a federal investment, officials say the county could increase services.
"My three children had the advantage of attending preschool programs, and I believe that other children should have the opportunity to attend preschool regardless of our income level," said Green.
Congress is expected to take up this plan in the next couple months during 2014 budget discussions.