President Obama's push for more pre-K funding garners surprising Republican support

Educate or incarcerate: Early education debate

(NBC) - Congress is back in Washington this week.

Along with Syria, House and Senate members are getting ready for another battle over the budget as lawmakers try to figure out where they can spend less.

President Obama wants to spend more on early childhood education, and he's getting some unlikely support from Republicans around the country.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says children who get a good head start often don't end up in jail.

The Los Angeles Republican runs the nation's largest jail system. Nearly a third of his 20,000 inmates are earning high school diplomas.

"We even had to buy three tattoo removal machines because they want to shed the past and build a better future," Sheriff Baca said.

That future starts early, says 5,000 law enforcement leaders.

They're backing President Obama's plan to educate every 4-year-old from low and moderate-income families.

"We can continue to spend a lot of money on incarceration and see high school dropouts or we can go the other direction and really a change for the better," said Sheriff Richard Stanek of Hennepin County, Minn.

The group "Fight Crime: Invest In Kids" claims the Obama plan would pay for itself and reduce the inmate population by 200,000 a year.

The report says the proposal would cost $75 billion over 10 years to enhance early education.

Right now, we spend that much in federal, state and local jails in just one year.

Not everyone's convinced.

A government report last year found no evidence that Head Start has any lasting impact.

Critics say taxpayers need a guarantee.

"The federal government is not in a position to embark on any major programs with uncertain costs," said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.

Educate or incarcerate, It's a debate over what the nation can afford.