Acting Gov. Tahesha Way announced the state will spend nearly $25 million in 26 school districts around the state to expand full-day preschool. (Rich Hundley III/Governor’s Office)
Twenty-six school districts in 13 counties in New Jersey will get nearly $25 million to establish or expand all-day preschool programs by this January, state officials announced Wednesday.
The funding is the latest investment the Murphy administration has made in its long-term goal of providing free, full-day preschool statewide for 3- and 4-year-olds, said Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way, who is acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy is overseas on a 9-day trade mission in East Asia.
“There is no single greater investment that we can make than to help every single child get a head start in their life,” Way said.
The funding, which will add just over 1,715 preschool seats in New Jersey, also will create jobs and alleviate the financial burden of child care for families, Way added. It’s part of nearly $110 million Murphy included in the current state budget for preschool expansion, she said. The state has spent more than $1.1 billion altogether on the universal preschool initiative.
Way and several state and local education officials announced the funding at the Estelle V. Malberg Early Childhood Center in Cherry Hill, where five public schools will get $3.4 million for preschool for about 250 students in 21 classrooms.
Last year, state aid for preschool expansion was available only to districts with 10% or more of their student enrollments from low-income families. This year, any district could apply.
Those granted funding had to demonstrate their capacity to provide a full-day preschool program with a certificated teacher, an aide, and small classes inclusive of children with special needs.
Angelica Allen-McMillan, the acting commissioner of the state Department of Education, said the funding will help “bridge the gap” and make preschool access more equitable.
“Quality early education plays a pivotal role in shaping the academic and personal development of our youngest learners,” Allen-McMillan said. “It lays the foundation for future success, nurturing cognitive, social, and emotional growth.”
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