Matawan-Aberdeen will receive $1.5M to expand preschool education 

The Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District will receive $1.5 million from the state to expand its preschool education offerings to students in the communities it serves.

On Dec. 21, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that 10 additional school districts – including Matawan-Aberdeen – will receive Preschool Education Aid totaling $10 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget to implement or expand quality early childhood education programs in their communities starting Feb. 1, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.

This expansion will increase the number of preschool seats in the awarded districts by 818 high-quality preschool seats while also enhancing the quality of the school districts’ existing seats, according to the press release.

Asked by the Independent to comment on the additional funding, Matawan-Aberdeen Superintendent of Schools Joseph Majka said, “First, I want to thank the governor’s office and the New Jersey Department of Education for making those funds available. It was a competitive grant process, which we embarked on last year. We went through the process.

“Unfortunately, we were not one of the districts that received a grant last year so we were adamant that we would do it again with the support of the (Board of Education), because ultimately at the end of the day this is going to benefit our children in a tremendous way by offering more opportunity at a younger age to begin the learning process,” Majka said.

“In New Jersey, we know that quality early education paves the path toward success for our children,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the press release. “During this unprecedented time, we continue to prioritize the future of our youngest learners and this investment helps to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

“In concert with prevailing early childhood research, we recognize that providing our youngest learners with high-quality early education will have long-lasting benefits to the children served, their families and the communities in which they reside,” said Angelica Allen-McMillan, New Jersey’s acting commissioner of education.

“Therefore, we are ecstatic that the Governor has made high-quality early childhood education a priority again this year. We are extremely excited to work with the 10 school districts awarded these funds to increase the number of children they serve, expand the length of their program day and anchor their services in research-based practices,” she said.

According to the press release, research has shown that quality preschool programming results in long-term benefits that range from improved academics throughout a child’s schooling to a greater likelihood of entering college after high school.

Under the Murphy Administration, New Jersey has increased the number of state-funded high-quality preschool seats to nearly 65,000 students. Enrolled preschool students are provided with a full-day program with a certified teacher, an aide and small classes inclusive of children with special needs who have an individualized education program, according to the press release.

As in years past, school districts that were eligible to receive a Preschool Expansion Aid award included those that had previously received partial state funding to address pockets of poverty or are based in communities that have at least 20% of their student population receiving free lunch or reduced price lunch, according to the press release.