JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell is taking a strong stand against crime and a strong stand for early childhood education.
He believes the two go hand in hand, going so far as to write a published op-ed piece.
Sheriff Mike Ezell wants all 4 year-olds in class. For him, it's personal.
"My daughter's an educator. My sister is a retired educator. I've worked for the Pascagoula school district for several years as campus police chief. I learned a lot about school and about kids," Ezell explained.
He feels early education is needed to reduce the prison population. He said, "There are so many broken homes and you have single parents raising children. I think structure is good for kids as it is for adults."
The end result of offering pre-K could be profound, according to the sheriff. "If we can get them early and get them educated and show them that there is a better way out there than living a life of crime, it makes life better for everybody," said Ezell.
The message from the sheriff is a simple one. "I think that an educated group of folks can learn and know right from wrong better than somebody never hears right from wrong," he stated.
Educators at the elementary level can agree with Ezell's ideology. They see a definite connection.
One of them is the assistant superintendent of the Pascagoula/Gautier school district, Belinda Dammen
"Pre-K is a learn through play experience. So they have a lot of social interactions with each other and they learn how to interact with each other, what rules are, how do we socialize at school and those types of things," Dammen explained.
Even though better education doesn't come cheap, Ezell says the key is spending education dollars more wisely.
"Money is not always the answer. People are the answer....making commitments that will last a lifetime," he noted.
Very few school districts in the state offer pre-K classes. In fact, even kindergarten is not mandatory, though a majority of districts make that available.