Police chiefs, Sheriff and prosecutor read to kids in Richland - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Police chiefs, Sheriff and prosecutor read to kids in Richland

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RICHLAND, Wash. - Benton County's police chiefs and the county prosecutor read to pre-school children Wednesday as they released a report calling on state and federal lawmakers to support high quality early learning programs as an effective way to keep high risk children from becoming criminals.

The report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nationwide organization made up of law enforcement officers, warns crime will rise if Congress and state lawmakers cut funding to Head Start and other early learning programs.

"It boils down to invest now or pay later," says Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner. "In the State of Washington, we spend about a billion dollars in corrections. Conversely, we spend about 139 million dollars in early learning."

Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg cites studies showing high risk children are five times more likely to spend time in jail when they are deprived of educational programs.

"It's almost alarming when you think how much money we spend dealing with criminal behavior and how much more benefit we could have by investing early in our children," Hohenberg says.

The organization says only half the children in low income families eligible take part in Head Start and state funded early learning programs because of a lack of funding.

The law enforcement leaders warn unless Congress acts, scheduled across the board budget cuts could mean as many as 1,400 Washington children will be excluded from Head Start. Also, the state legislature will consider further cuts in January as it faces a $2 billion deficit in the 2013-2015 biennial budget.