In response to the Sept. 12 letter by Ralph Dean, who says public preschool is “far too expensive,” I would encourage your readers to consider the impressive return on investment that communities receive from high-quality early care and education.

A recent cost-benefit analysis of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers by researchers at the University of Minnesota shows that high-quality pre-K can provide more than $10 in benefits for every dollar invested — with much of the savings coming from reduced crime and corrections costs.

And consider this: At $412 per day for secured confinement, one teenager in our Maine correctional system for one year costs more than $150,000.

Research shows that high-quality pre-K can help reduce the likelihood of children turning to crime. A long-term study of the Perry Preschool in Michigan showed that by age 27, at-risk youngsters left out of the program were five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers than similar children who attended the program.

Children left out of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers were 70 percent more likely to have been arrested for a violent crime by age 18, compared with those who attended the pre-kindergarten program.

Preventing just one child from dropping out of school, abusing drugs and becoming a career criminal saves taxpayers as much as $2.5 million.

That’s why I, and many of my law enforcement colleagues in Maine, support expansion of public pre-K. I applaud Superintendent Jim Morse for his commitment to pre-K in Portland.

Col. Mark Westrum

Correctional administrator, Two Bridges Regional Jail


I am writing in response to Ralph Dean’s letter in which he questions the need to spend money on preschool education. The simple answer is that it makes economic sense to invest in a child’s early education rather than pay more later in special education and remedial services.

The years before a child enters kindergarten are critical — 85 percent of a child’s brain development occurs by age 5. The most effective time to set a child on the path to success is in those early years.

Quality early childhood education creates the foundation for a child to build the cognitive and social skills needed to achieve success in school, and continue on to college and a productive career.

Every dollar invested in early childhood education provides taxpayers with returns of 7 percent to 10 percent per year, based on money saved in paying for remedial education, health or justice system issues, and in added tax revenues from the increased earnings that come with a young person’s potential career path.

Mr. Dean criticizes the Portland Public Schools’ plans for spending $9,000 per year on a preschool student, but that amount is on par or less than the amount spent each year on K-12 students, yielding much more bang for the buck.

This is even more relevant when talking about kids from low-income families. According to the Maine Department of Education, about 52 percent of children in Portland Public Schools receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Quality preschool can help these children bridge the achievement gap and reduce government costs due to poor outcomes in education, health and personal productivity. Early childhood education is a smart, long-term investment in the future of our state.

Judy Reidt-Parker

Early childhood specialist, Maine Children’s Alliance


Religious views at risk from same-sex ballot

The Press Herald has recently noted the “approved language” regarding the ballot on the same-sex marriage issue scheduled for a November 2012 vote.

The wording of the ballot question, however, leaves little doubt as to the need to challenge its questionable ethical content. (“Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?”)

The question as it is written pretends to offer the protection of religious freedom — essentially a quid pro quo where a favor is being exchanged for a vote — but the favor, in fact, has no validity.

The plan being used here is meant to intimidate, sow doubt and persuade by suggestion. Like a propaganda technique, it uses subtle means to accomplish its end.

Voting has always been regarded as a public trust with high standards, and it should remain so, not using the ballot as a pressurized advertisement seeking to secure the passage of the same-sex marriage bill. Such a one-sided attempt to influence a vote is completely out of character with any concept of fairness and impartiality.

It must always be kept in mind, that as American citizens, we find our religious freedom protected by the time-honored Bill of Rights found in the U.S. Constitution, and not how we vote at the polls.

Any undue tampering with ballot language to create bias and favoritism will only impugn the integrity of the voting system, setting up prejudicial barriers to the interests of one voting bloc while favoring the radical social disposition of the other.

The construction of the ballot question is purposely deceptive, effective but preferential by design and sorely in need of revision in 2012.

A confrontational ballot will always be one marked with doubt and uncertainty. The sole purpose of a voting ballot is simply to inform the electorate of the issues, not to manage it with the expectation of obtaining given results.

J. Mark DeCoste

South Portland

Ignore the tea party and pass Obama’s bill

We all watched the spectacle of dysfunctional politics during the crisis over raising the debt limit for spending by the U.S. government.

For every attempt by President Obama to offer compromise and to broker some bipartisan approval in order to get our country quickly beyond that mark, the opposing party had but one word for every suggestion: “No!”

Now that we are hugging the cliff edge of economic chaos and the president has offered a lifeline of support away from that disaster.

So, what can we expect the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives to say to his new proposal, the “American Jobs Act”?

Their previous entrenched stance on any kind of spending would suggest another round of negative resistance with lots of nos!

No wonder 83 percent of Americans resoundingly disapprove of their performance in Washington.

This economic dilemma that we are in was never about them and their brazen ideology, but all about the average American who is trying to survive in these horrible economic times.

In order to get our economic engine moving again, some monies are needed to fuel this recovery.

So don’t listen to tea party advocates and help to put the necessary fuel in that tank to get America moving again. The American Jobs Act is needed now and should not be shredded with the language of “no” from any opposing party.

There is no more time to languish in endless debates over ideological/political differences. The language of “yes” will be a powerful message to Americans that all parties are united and working to come to their economic rescue.

John Oser