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Study: Preschool Provides Returns for Sacramento Children

Newly Released Report Links Preschool to High Performance

Dave Gordon speaking in front of news cameras

SCOE Superintendent David W. Gordon speaking at a press conference hosted by Preschool California.

According to a new study by the RAND Corporation, if all 4-year-olds in Sacramento County and the Capitol Region had the chance to attend a quality, half-day preschool program the region would have 640 fewer high school dropouts and 1,900 fewer criminal charges filed against juveniles each year. The annual reduction of 640 drop-outs is almost double the size of this year's graduating class at Luther Burbank High School.

"Preschool makes a difference in the lives and academic achievement of children," said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools Dave Gordon. "It makes a difference for the teachers at the higher levels and it makes a difference in the communities. Preschool lays a solid foundation for a child's future."

Because the Capital Region is home to 7% of California's potential preschoolers, the new RAND data shows that the Capitol Region would benefit greatly in terms of considerably enhanced educational outcomes and dramatic reductions in juvenile crime.

"This research supports what I know from my 32 years in law enforcement - it's possible to put more kids into caps and gowns than handcuffs with early and wise investments in high-quality preschool," said Folsom Chief of Police Sam Spiegel.

According to the RAND report, if all of the Capital Region's 39,000 4-year-olds were given the chance to enroll in a quality preschool program, Sacramento would reap the following annual benefits for each group of 4-year-olds:

  • 640 fewer high school drop-outs (13% reduction)
  • 878 fewer children ever being held back a grade
  • 3,989 fewer child years in special education (8% reduction)
  • 1,880 fewer criminal charges filed against juveniles (18% reduction), including 359 fewer charges for violent crimes

Lynn Karoly, RAND Senior Economist and author of the new report, County-Level Estimates of the Effects of Universal Preschool in California, co-authored an earlier RAND study that quantified the economic impact of universal preschool opportunity for all of California's 4-year-olds. That report found that quality preschool returns $2.62 to California society for every dollar invested.

"We had an opportunity to do a detailed follow-up on our earlier study to help California's counties and regions understand the immediate and long-term benefits of providing preschool for all of their children," said Karoly. "The data are clear - local communities would benefit from greater academic achievement and reductions in crime and its associated costs."

The study also finds that the societal benefits of preschool begin to exceed the program costs by the time each class of 4-year-olds turns 14 -- while benefits to the state and society continue to increase afterward. RAND found that each class year of children given the opportunity to attend preschool will generate $2.7 billion to California society over their lifetime. Each class year in California includes approximately 550,000 children.

"I look at preschool education as a building block," said Collette Johnson-Schulke, Director of Government and Community Relations for Sutter Health." We really need an educated workforce for the future."

For more about the report, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.

Preschool California is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization working to achieve quality preschool opportunities for all 4-year-olds in California.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California is a bipartisan, anti-crime organization involving sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys, and victims of violence. Its mission is to take a critical look at the research about what really works to keep kids from becoming criminals.

The RAND Corporation's County-Level Estimates of the Effects of Universal Preschool in California was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Superintendent and Police Chief kneeling to congratulate a student

SCOE Superintendent David W. Gordon (right) and Folsom Police Chief Sam Spiegel hand out diplomas to students at Washington Elementary Preschool in Sacramento.