That's the gist of the "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" initiative proposed recently by a national coalition of police, prosecutors and crime victims. I agree with Doc Berman that education and crime are too seldom linked in the public discourse. That's not just a "framing strategy," as Dan Filler put it it's a valid interpretation of the data that's become unpopular in recent years because of political arguments labeling its proponents "liberal" or "soft on crime." However, that doesn't invalidate the stance or reduce its import to mere clever political posturing. From the group's press release:
Research shows that high school dropouts are three and a half times more likely than graduates to be arrested and eight times more likely to be incarcerated. Nineteen of the top 25 largest U.S. cities have school districts where 40 percent or more of students do not graduate on time. Nearly 70 percent of all inmates in our nation's prisons failed to earn a high school diploma.The law enforcement leaders are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization made up of over 4,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys, and violence survivors. They called on Congress and state lawmakers to expand pre-kindergarten, one of the most effective strategies to increase graduation rates.
"If kids get strong start early in life, we can cut our dropout rate and improve our communities," Lynch said. "To help more kids get that strong start, we need to fund early childhood education programs and ensure that every child that qualifies is able to enroll."
The Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members released a report called "School or the Streets," showing that increasing graduation rates by 10 percentage points will prevent 3,000 murders and 175,000 aggravated assaults in America every year.
In May, former Secretary of State Collin Powell's organization, America's Promise, issued these data regarding
Dallas: 44.4%As Grits argued in reaction to that analysis, there are particular subgroups among dropouts who account for a disproportionate amount of crime and public safety resources:
San Antonio: 51.9%
Fort Worth: 55.5%
Straight-up illiteracy is a key criminogenic factor. It's long been known, for example, that while dyslexics make up about 10% of students, they make up 30% or more of those in prison.Texas' massive prison system shows it does a good job of holding its citizens accountable (one in 21 adult Texans are in prison, in jail, on probation or on parole), but these high dropout rates show there's been little progress made holding schools accountable for their frankly lousy outcomes.
As far as reducing crime, an even more important subcategory are kids with incarcerated parents, who tend to be 6-8 times more likely than their peers to wind up incarcerated themselves. Making sure those kids stay in school and have real opportunities to succeed might be the single most important contribution society could make to reducing future crime.
I spend a lot of time on this blog looking at the back end of the system's failures and how we manage those who've already violated societal rules. But there's little question reducing those massive dropout rates would reduce crime and systemic pressure on the front end better than anything that could be done after people have already offended. Worth contemplating, certainly, as everybody heads back to school.