CHICAGO (CBS)>/strong> — Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart had some harsh words Thursday for state cuts in preschool funding.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Dart joined 300 Illinois police officer and prosecutors who are part of the Illinois chapter of the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, to urge an end to cuts directed at money for preschool in Springfield.

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LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

“You can’t make cuts that are truly foolish, and to cut into preschool is beyond foolish,” Dart said. “It’s reckless is what it is.”

Dart said the cuts have eliminated 18,000 preschool slots across Illinois and left one county, downstate Calhoun County, with no state-funded preschool opportunities at all.

Dart and the group also warned that cutting the preschool budget would actually cost taxpayers money in the long run.

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He said $55 million in preschool funding cuts will eventually cost Illinois $200 million in spending to prosecute and incarcerate those left by the wayside by lack of preschool opportunities.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids said a long-term study of the Perry Preschool in Michigan found that by age 27, at-risk kids who did not attend were five times more likely to grow up as chronic law breakers than those enrolled in the program.

The sheriffs and state’s attorneys did not offer any budget-balancing alternatives, but did say that cutting preschool programs is not the way to go about it.

A study by the group asserted that in the last two years, 38 Illinois counties faced preschool cuts of 20 percent or greater.

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The Chicago metropolitan area has seen a loss of 7,000 children from state funded preschools.