MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More than 100 law enforcement leaders across Minnesota are asking lawmakers for a minimum of $150 million a year for preschool programs.

They say early learning programs can help children develop a foundation for the future, reduce school behavior problems and cut back on the number of children who are held back in school.

Gov. Mark Dayton wants to send every 4-year-old to school for free and says he won’t compromise on his $343 million plan for universal preschool.

Senate Democrats are proposing $70 million in early education programs, but not only for pre-K, and not for free.

House Republicans are proposing even less — $40 million.

At a press conference Wednesday, three Twin Cities sheriffs rolled out their program, called “I’m The Guy You Pay Later.” The sheriffs said their proposal of $150 million annually is worth the cost, considering they see the alternative firsthand in the field.

Ramsey County Sheriff Matthew Bostrom said it’s not often very officers take someone to jail who’s graduated from high school.

With only three weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers want to invest in pre-K, but the best way to do that and how much to spend is still being debated.

Law enforcement officials say if their plan is approved, it could reduce the state’s prisoners by nearly 1,000 each year and save $49 million per year in prison costs.

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