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Chapa LaVia recognized as 'Champion for Children'

Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas (from left), St. Charles Police Chief Jim Lamkin, Illinois State Rep. Linda Chapa-LaVia of Aurora, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis.

The folllowing is a news release issued by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois:

Citing research that shows preschool is effective in preventing future crime, law enforcement leaders from Kane and Kendall Counties visited the East Aurora Early Childhood Center Friday to recognize State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia for her long-time leadership in the Illinois General Assembly as an advocate for the state’s preschool program.

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis, Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas, and St. Charles Police Chief James Lamkin presented Rep. Chapa LaVia with the Champion for Children Award. The award was presented on behalf of the over 300 Illinois state’s attorneys, police chiefs, and sheriffs who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, a bipartisan anti-crime organization.

"I know I speak on behalf of state's attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs across Illinois when I say that the state's preschool program is one of the most important tools we have when it comes to crime prevention. Common sense tells us that if we give children the skills they need to succeed right from the very beginning, chances are that they will start and stay on the right path in life – and the research backs that up," said State's Attorney McMahon. "We're grateful that Representative Chapa LaVia is willing to go to bat for quality early childhood education to ensure it remains a priority in Illinois."

The group acknowledged Chapa LaVia’s work in her capacity as Chair of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and as former chair of the committee that deals with the Illinois State Board of Education budget. Citing her many years as a vocal advocate for the state preschool program in the General Assembly, the law enforcement leaders noted that her efforts have become even more important as the program has been significantly impacted by state budget cuts.

Illinois’ state preschool program is nationally recognized for its quality. But cuts to the program over the past 5 years have resulted in nearly 22,000 children losing their spot in preschool across the state. In Kane County, nearly 300 slots were lost, adding to the over 8,000 unserved 3- and 4-year-olds in the County who are from families that cannot afford quality preschool on their own.

"If many of the people I see in the courtroom had learned early in life how to get along with others, resolve conflict, listen, and take direction, they wouldn't be where they are today,” said Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis. “Research shows that preschool gives young children these skills, and that they'll carry them into adulthood."

Law enforcement’s experience and rigorous research supports the value of preschool. A study of the Perry Preschool in Michigan tracked at-risk children who attended the program and similar children that did not attend. At age 27, adult non-participants were five times more likely to have been arrested for drug felonies and twice as likely to have been arrested for violent crimes. Another study of the publicly funded Child-Parent Centers in Chicago found that kids left out of the program were 27 percent more likely to have been arrested by age 28 than those who participated.

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