FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2012
Contact: Nancy Parello,
(973) 643-3876, firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW JERSEY LEADS NATION IN PRE-K
State Must Expand Successful Preschools
New Jersey continues to lead the nation in providing high-quality preschool to low-income children, but has lost ground on ensuring that all at-risk children receive this early start to learning, according to a national report released today.
The State of Preschool 2011: State Preschool Yearbook found that New Jersey moved up to 2nd place nationally for its enrollment of 3-year-olds in high-quality preschool. New Jersey’s preschools also continue to get high marks for quality – meeting eight of 10 standards.
At the same time, however, the state’s access ranking for 4-year-olds dropped from 9th to 16th, as other states made gains that have eclipsed New Jersey’s position.
“New Jersey’s preschools are one of the state’s greatest success stories,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which for more than a decade has supported preschool expansion in New Jersey. “Thousands of children have benefited from this quality early start to learning that can help them graduate from high school college and career ready.”
“Now, it is time to build on that success by fulfilling our promise to expand preschool to children outside of the 35 districts currently receiving state preschool funding,” Zalkind added. “Children across New Jersey should not be denied access to high-quality preschool because of their zip code.”
While the current state budget proposal maintains funding for preschool, it does not provide money for expansion, as mandated in the 2008 school funding law. Zalkind noted that the state has never fully funded the preschool mandate. When fully funded, preschool would be available to an additional 35,000 children across the state.
“As we see signs of an improving economy and a Jersey comeback, it’s time to make a down payment on that promise of preschool for thousands of children who need this quality early learning to succeed in school,” Zalkind said.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is planning visits with legislators and other state officials to spotlight the need to finally begin moving forward with preschool expansion. ACNJ’s network of supporters will also be sending messages to state officials that preschool needs to be a priority in the FY 2013 budget.
Steve Barnett, director of the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University that has surveyed state preschool programs on a number of measures since 2001-2002, also called for preschool expansion.
“New Jersey remains committed to adequately funding effective, quality early education,” Barnett said. “The state should commit itself to expand this opportunity to all young learners in this decade.”
The Yearbook findings, which include NIEER’s data over the past 10 years and recommendations for policymakers, were released today at the Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Barnett at today’s event.
An overwhelming body of research shows that high-quality preschool prepares children to succeed in school, enroll in college or career training and helps more students land better jobs that can improve the nation’s economy. This year’s report highlights national trends in pre-K programs over past 10 years.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is the state’s leading non-profit, non-partisan child research and action organization.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (www.nieer.org), a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research.