Early intervention for children saves lives and it saves money. Preventing problems from developing is always better than correcting them after the fact. So why is it that 23% of the kids in the Humble ISD seventh grade can’t read at grade level?
Why did the District eliminate popular and effective programs like Reading Recovery that targeted kids in the first grade who were falling behind – before they lost years of learning? Why has the number of social workers assigned to Title One schools been reduced?
The Value of Early Intervention
My beliefs about the value of early intervention were formed through work I did with the the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and American Leadership Forum (ALF) on a project called Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ illustrated below.
Prevention Better than Correction
The basic premise: prenatal problems; drug and alcohol abuse by parents; child neglect and abuse; poor schooling; and the lack of positive role models ultimately lead to unemployment, violence and prison. Children can be funneled into this pipeline at any age. The sooner we get them out, the lower the costs in both human and financial terms. How? With prenatal health care, postnatal health care, parenting classes, education, mentoring, building skills, and internships before their problems escalate into the need for mental health care, juvenile justice diversion programs, and prison.
The PDFs below, which I helped write and photograph, explain the concept in greater detail. They show dozens of examples and document the cost/benefit ratios. The first is the original report created around 2010. It describes the concepts in greater detail. The second contains statistics that were updated in 2014.
Did you know that:
- Many states determine how many prison cells they will need years down the road by looking at third grade reading scores?
- In 2014, it cost approximately $8300 per year to educate a child, but more than $76,000 per year to incarcerate someone?
More Coordination with Other Groups Needed
There are dozens of organizations in the Houston area that already help to address the root causes of poverty effectively and cost-efficiently. They include our own PTAs and PTOs plus local charities, such as the Humble Area Assistance Ministeries (HAAM), Family Time, and Baylor College of Medicine Teen Clinics, to name just a few.
I believe we need to reach out to more such organizations, develop partnerships with them and provide better coordination. The problems extend far beyond the school system. But the school system can play a major role in solving such problems. The goal: provide help that keeps children out of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. It will save lives and money in the long run.
Within the District, we especially need to focus on early childhood reading intervention programs that keep students from falling behind. If kids can’t learn to read by the third grade, they can’t read to learn thereafter. They just keep falling farther and father behind and their career choices narrow. If elected, I will do everything in my power to improve early childhood reading intervention and improve coordination with other groups that can help our at-risk children in other ways.