For Immediate Release
Contact: Nancy Parello | firstname.lastname@example.org | (908) 399-6031
Federal Funds Open Preschool Doors to 1,500 NJ Kids
Uncertain future funding could jeopardize continued expansion
Nearly 1,500 New Jersey 4-year-olds are attending new or improved preschools this fall, thanks to federal funding that has fueled the first expansion of high-quality pre-k in New Jersey in seven years.
The new or improved pre-k classrooms are located in 17 towns and must meet the same high-quality standards as New Jersey’s state-funded preschools, which operate in 35 districts across the state. Research shows that quality preschool can improve a child’s chance for school success and lead to other long-term benefits.
New Jersey was one of 18 states to win a competitive 4-year federal grant to expand high-quality preschools in communities with high concentrations of low- and moderate-income families. The first year of the grant was awarded in 2014. The preschools opened this September.
The grants can also be used to improve the quality of existing preschool classrooms. This can include expanding to a full-day program from half-day, adding certified teachers with assistants, shrinking class size to 15, using research-based curriculum and providing comprehensive services for children and families.
Of the young children benefiting from this infusion of federal dollars, 806 are in new classrooms, while 679 are in improved preschools, according to statistics provided by the New Jersey Department of Education.
Last week, federal officials announced the second year of grants, but future years are uncertain, as Congress has yet to authorize funding for the final two years of the grant – or $35 million of the full $70 million grants. Proposed Congressional spending bills would eliminate the grant in future years, meaning about 3,600 New Jersey children would be denied preschool.
“It is exciting that these preschoolers have this opportunity to reap the documented long-term benefits of quality early learning,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director, Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “Without the federal funds, many of these children would have been unable to attend a full-day, high-quality preschool.’’
Zalkind noted that the state has not increased its investment in preschool for seven years, despite a 2008 school funding law that mandates this expansion.
“It is critical that the federal government continue to support this expansion of early education,” Zalkind added. “We are urging our New Jersey delegates to make this a top priority in budget negotiations. If fully funded, this 4-year initiative will ensure that about 8,000 New Jersey children are given an early learning foundation that is a cornerstone of school success. Without the federal funds, the future of these preschools – and the children they would serve -- is in jeopardy.”
"It would be incredibly sad if our district's 4-year-old students were crushed between competing political factions in Washington," said Rocco Tomazic, Freehold Borough superintendent. "The administration made a multi-year commitment to help our youngest and most needy students. It is time to honor that commitment."
Tomazic added that without federal funding, it is unlikely the district will be able to sustain the preschools and provide this critical early learning to young students.
“If they pull the federal funding, I will be forced to shut down the preschool closes, other than what little I can do with very limited state funding,” he said.
The following chart shows the districts receiving federal preschool funds and the number of children in each type of slot – new or improved.
|Egg Harbor City
|Upper Deerfield Twp.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children. www.acnj.org
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