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Guest column

Sheriff Don Ash
Don Ash

by Don Ash
There is no easy solution to reducing crime in our communities. As your leaders in law enforcement, we do all we can to enforce the law, catch the bad guys, prosecute them, and get them off the streets. That’s our job, and it’s our officers’ top responsibility.

But we also take seriously our responsibility to prevent crime and violence—to get ahead of the problems and to avoid the price victims, the perpetrators, and our communities pay for crime.

This demands we put resources into this effort to help our most vulnerable children and families. Research shows that parenting education can be an important component in supporting and developing healthy relationships between children and their parents, setting the stage for strong families and children ready for school success, and that our communities are safer because of it.

Despite this knowledge and experience, we see our state moving in the wrong direction in terms of these critical investments. We are concerned with the Governor’s proposal to sweep more than $30 million from the Kansas Endowment from Youth and the Children’s Initiatives Fund. And Tuesday, the Social Services Budget Subcommittee in the Kansas Legislature voted to strip all Parents as Teachers funds from CIF. This means that there will not be any funds from KSDE for PAT programs in Kansas. Let us detail two of the most important investments that make our jobs as law enforcement officials more effective.

One intervention we value is high-quality coaching for our most vulnerable mothers and children. Providing this coaching, which is voluntary on the mother’s part, provides the support and guidance that new mothers need. There are substantial health and educational aspects to parent coaching—improving infants’ health though good pre-natal care; children are more likely to be identified at an earlier age if there are health or developmental concerns which leads to referral to school and community services for early intervention; teaching mothers how to read and talk to their children resulting in higher reading scores at Kindergarten, 3rd, and 4th grade; and higher scores in symbolic development, math concepts, written language, and oral communication—that can be achieved through good programs such as Early Head Start and Parents as Teachers. And law enforcement especially values the reduction in child abuse and neglect, and infant mortality that results from some high-quality programs.

Moreover, both the mothers and children who participated in the Nurse-Family Partnership were half as likely to become involved in crime over time as similar families who did not get the benefits of home visiting. The return on investment for this program? More than $17,000 per family after subtracting the costs, with most of that savings coming from crime reduction.

The evidence is quite clear that low-income children who participate in a high-quality pre-k program have significant advantages compared to their peers who miss out on the pre-k experience. Again, like the home visiting experience, there are significant educational benefits, including limiting the education gap between poor and middle-class kids. There are really important social development skills that kids learn in pre-k—like following directions, sticking to task, collaboration, and controlling one’s emotions—that can last a lifetime.

But we in law enforcement value the evidence that shows that high-quality pre-k can substantially reduce the chances that those children become involved in crime. Long-term research in Chicago has shown that children who did not participate in high-quality pre-k were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18. Another study shows the return on investment: approximately $5 savings for each dollar invested.

Since 1999, the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund—which was established by a financial settlement with the tobacco companies—provided the funding to make progress in improving the lives of at-risk kids. This source of funding has been critical to the progress we’ve been making.

However, that funding has been stagnant since 2007, thus making it impossible to maintain the programs it has been supporting, much less moving these investments in kids forward. Despite the full intention of the legislature to support kids, the funds in the Kansas Endowment for Youth have been diverted to other areas.

We ask Gov. Brownback and our representatives in the legislature to carefully consider the importance of maintaining the funding in the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund. It prevents crime by helping our most vulnerable kids get the right start in life. This investment is of utmost importance, and the gains to our state are enormous. The short-sighted thinking leading to these cuts now will lead to very expensive costs to all Kansans through the criminal justice and jail-incarceration systems later.

Donald Ash is the Sheriff of Wyandotte County and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.


The Unified Government Commission unanimously voted to authorize a development agreement with the Dairy Farmers of America at its Thursday, Feb. 26, meeting.

Also approved was authorization for $4.5 million in street improvements and issuance of $4.5 million in temporary notes for the Dairy Farmers of America project.

The project is a 100,000-square-foot office building that will serve as global headquarters of the DFA. It is on about 12 acres in the Vacation Village Redevelopment District, in the Schlitterbahn area, near the intersection of France Family Drive and 98th Street. That is between Parallel Parkway and State Avenue.

‘I want to thank the Dairy Farmers of America for your significant investment in our community,” Mayor Mark Holland said. “We’re looking forward to partner with you in the future.”

According to UG information, the $20 million capital investment project has a target completion date of Nov. 1, 2016. The development agreement will specify a 20-year commitment to the site.

The DFA currently has a building on the Missouri side of the state line, near the airport, and there are about 300 workers with an average annual salary of $90,000, according to UG documents.

The UG is issuing industrial revenue bonds, and the project qualifies for a 10-year, 75 percent abatement, according to UG information. There is also a $1 million pledge of STAR (sales tax revenue) bond proceeds toward eligible site costs.

The $4.5 million roadwork will be an “S” curve added to 98th Street. The ”S” curve was part of the planned improvements, and has now been accelerated according to UG documents.

The road improvement may be paid for with $4.5 million in temporary notes to start the project, according to UG documents. The long-term funding will come from either STAR bond issuance, the state of Kansas or contributions by SVV (Schlitterbahn Vacation Village), UG documents stated.


A Kansas City, Kan., student is participating in Cornell College’s alternative spring break program.

Ellen Larson, Kansas City, Kan., is one of more than 100 Cornell students in the program.

Students involved with alternative spring break spend their weeklong break on a service trip.

Larson is taking part in a trip to New Orleans, and will work with the Volunteers of America of Greater New Orleans to help create affordable housing for people with disabilities and senior citizens.

Cornell College is in Mount Vernon, Iowa.