Republican legislator Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia), says that his research based on available data shows that communities in his state of New Hampshire that have kindergarten programs have up to 400 per cent more crime than communities that do not have.
Time reports Kingsbury, 86, proposed his theory of a link between kindergarten and crime at a Belknap County meeting of state legislators last week during which the issue of increasing crime rates and need for building new jails was discussed. His theory stirred considerable controversy.
The Huffington Post notes that Kingsbury is known for his strongly conservative leaning and for supporting legislation may consider controversial.
The New Hampshrie state legislator, a staunch opponent of the state's public kindergarten mandate, used his hometown of Laconia, the largest of the 10 communities in Belknap County, to illustrate the result of his research that began in 1996. Laconia, according to Kingsbury, has the only kindergarten program in the county and the highest crime rates. According to Kingsbury, the records show that Laconia had most of the county's rapes, robberies, assaults and murders. Kingsbury cited crime reports that showed that Laconia had 63 of the county's 70 rapes, 6 out of 9 robberies, 44 out of 47 arsons and 408 out of 506 simple assaults. Laconia had all of the county's murders and higher rates of other crimes.
Kingsbury, explaining the link between crime and kindergarten, said: We’re taking children away from their mothers too soon." He elaborated on his theory to The Huffington Post:
"The sources I have is, I went to the Department of Education and got a list of kindergartens and I went to the safety department and got the crime report. In general, the towns with a kindergarten have 400 percent more crime than other towns in the same county. In every county, the towns and cities with kindergarten had more crime."
Kingsbury said that day care or preschool programs could not be blamed for the higher crime rates because, unlike kindergarten, they are voluntary. He said: "Children go to kindergarten at the point of a gun. Children go to day care and it's not the same; there is no point of a gun."
Kingsbury said teachers are partly to blame, but he said the rise in crime is not the fault of teachers. He blamed attorneys and the courts for lack of discipline in schools.
Kingsbury did not mention other factors that can contribute to higher rates of crime.
According to Time, Kingsbury’s conclusions contradict the body of literature on the effects of early childhood education.
Time cites a 2004 paper by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, that found that preschool and very early childhood education increase children's educational achievement, "improve their rates of future employment and cuts welfare dependence, and reduces delinquency and crime."
Time also cites a study published in the journal Science last July that showed that children who attended preschool were 22 percent less like to be convicted for a felony, 28 percent less likely to develop alcohol or other drug problems and 24 percent more likely to go to college, compared with those who started school later in childhood.
Time also cites a few examples of what researchers call "spurious correlations" to drive home the point that statistical correlation "does not equal cause,":
"...students from communities with more hot tubs in their homes have higher rates of college graduation. But you can’t conclude from a mere statistical association that giving everyone a hot tub will guarantee college success
Similarly, there’s likely to be a strong correlation between air conditioner sales and ice cream sales, but no one would argue that buying an air conditioner makes you want to eat ice cream, or vice versa. Quite obviously, both effects can be attributed to a third factor: hot weather."
Kingsbury's comment caused enough stir for Democratic Gubernatorial candidates in the state to react, affirming their support for kindergarten. The Inquisitr reports that Republican Gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire, Ovide Lamontagne, avoided giving his opinion on Kingsbury's comment, saying: “Well, everybody is entitled to their opinion. This is America, after all. And what we need to be doing from the point of view of government and government leadership is enabling people to make decisions at the local level and their families, and so forth for the best services available to their children, whether educational services, health care, and so forth, and that is what I am going to be looking at, and certainly as governor of the state of New Hampshire I am going to stand with New Hampshire families across the board.”
The spokesman of the National Education Association in New Hampshire, George Stout, said that "every ounce of credible research" shows that kindergarten helps children. Stout said: "To cheat them out of that is not looking at the bigger picture. We were concerned that [Kingsbury's research] is a correlation and that's not what you learn in statistics. We know the value of early childhood education."