Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that New Jersey will commit to providing universal pre-K to all families across the state over the next several years.
Murphy made the announcement on Sept. 16.
According to a press release from Murphy’s office, the Sept. 16 round of funding establishes or expands high-quality pre-kindergarten programs in 19 additional school districts across the state.
The New Jersey Department of Education will develop a strategic plan that will set a roadmap for further pre-K expansion throughout the state, according to the press release.
“Investing in early childhood education lays the foundation for a bright future for our early learners,” said Murphy. “Our administration is committed to ensuring that every New Jersey child receives a high-quality education starting with pre-K. While we still have a long way to go to achieve pre-K for all, today’s expansion further demonstrates our commitment to reaching as many students as possible.”
The Governor’s Universal Pre-K Strategic Plan, led by the Department of Education, will focus on the following:
• Prioritizing districts and setting a timeline for expansion;
• Ensuring students have appropriate facilities and quality programming;
• Involving childcare providers and Head Start in planning to avoid displacing existing high-quality early learning centers;
• Optimizing funding streams, including federal funds from the federal Build Back Better Plan;
• Using best practices from other states that offer expanded/universal pre-k programs.
In addition to stating his vision for pre-K statewide, Murphy announced that 19 school districts have been awarded $17 million in pre-K expansion funding for the 2021-22 school year.
The only school district in the region that will receive pre-K expansion funding for the 2021-22 school year is the Jackson School District in Ocean County, which will receive $3.17 million, according to the press release.
“Research has shown that children’s trajectory for academic success starts early and continues throughout their life,” said Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “Investing in preschool education pays dividends for our students and future of the state.”
“We commend Gov. Murphy for his steadfast commitment to giving every New Jersey child this important head start in life,” New Jersey Education Association President Sean M. Spiller said.
“We know every child has incredible potential, but not every child has the same opportunities and resources to fulfill that potential. This investment in our youngest students is another important step in our shared work to build a more just and equitable future,” Spiller said.
“Today’s announcement represents five years of consistent expansion of New Jersey’s state-funded, full day pre-k for working families throughout our state,” said Sam Crane from Pre-K Our Way. “We want to thank the Governor and Legislature for their leadership in expanding New Jersey’s pre-K.”