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Officials advocate early education over incarceration
merced preschool pic
Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin (left) and California State Senator Anthony Cannella learn how to make a Playdoh taco from Atwater preschooler Jonathan Moore, 4. Pazin and Cannella joined law enforcement and school district officials to discuss the importance of early education as a crime prevention tool. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal


Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin boiled down his visit to an Atwater preschool site in two points: “Education, not incarceration. We want to take care of the first part — education — before we later have to incarcerate.”

Pazin, along with State Senator Anthony Canella (District 12), Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II and Merced Chief of Police Norm Andrade took a united stance in favor of education on Tuesday with a visit to an Atwater Elementary School District preschool campus at Shaffer Elementary.

During the visit the four met with officials from the Merced County Office of Education and discussed the importance of early education as an effective crime and high school dropout prevention strategy.

According to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, students who attend high-quality preschools are up to 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school, later leading to reductions in homicide and assault numbers.  Children who did not attend preschool are 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the age of 18.

“In preschool kids are learning social skills that they will use their whole life, and unfortunately not all kids are getting those social skills at home. While at school they learn how to negotiate and resolve conflicts. They learn to use words and to communicate, along with the ability to self-regulate,” said Patti Kishi, AESD preschool coordinator.

Senator Canella spoke about the challenges families are facing and the need for preschools as tools to improve social and life choices down the line in a young child’s life.

“Parents are doing everything they can but in these tough times a lot of families have both parents working. These programs can come in and help fill a need. We want to believe that kids can learn from their homes, but the reality is some of them are not and we have to react to that reality,” he said.

Early reading education is another important aspect of preschool education. While most children will not be reading entire sentences by kindergarten, the foundations are being laid.

“In law enforcement we see what happens to people who can’t read or don’t read well. When that little boy gets to high school and he is asked to read in front of the class but he can’t, he is going to find another way to release that pride — and it might be going to start a fight to make himself feel like the big bad man on campus. Then later when he has kids he can’t read to them and it turns into a vicious cycle,” explained Merced Chief of Police Norm Andrade.

One of the priorities of the gathering was to focus on retaining funding for preschool and other educational programs — something Cannella, a father of four children, says he is dedicated to doing. reports that for every dollar invested in a preschool program, over $16 are saved from social welfare and crime programs.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.