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Gov. Phil Murphy visits a pre-k classroom and holds a press conference at Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center Sept. 16.

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PALISADES PARK – Building on his commitment to expand early childhood education in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Sept. 16 that the state will commit to providing universal pre-K to all families across the state over the next several years. 

According to a governor's office release, the round of funding establishes or expands high-quality pre-K programs in 19 additional school districts across the state. The Department of Education will develop a strategic plan that will set a roadmap for further pre-K expansion throughout the state. 

“Investing in early childhood education lays the foundation for a bright future for our early learners,”stated 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
  • Utilizing best practices from other states that offer expanded/universal pre-k programs

In addition to the vision for pre-K statewide, Murphy announced 19 school districts have been awarded $17 million in pre-K expansion funding for the 2021-2022 school year, of which Cape May's school district is expected to receive $376,033. This latest round of funding was announced during a visit Sept. 16 to the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center, in Palisades Park, which received $823,860 in state funding.

“Research has shown that childrens' trajectory for academic success starts early, and continues throughout their life,” stated Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of Education. “Investing in preschool education pays dividends for our students and future of the State of New Jersey.”

“Early childhood education is pivotal in shaping a child’s academic career. High-quality universal preschool programs have been proven to have a lasting impact well into adulthood. Today’s announcement helps us move one step closer to providing all of our state’s children with the foundation they need to be successful,” stated Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29th), chair of the Senate Education Committee. “Universal preschool has been a cornerstone of my priorities legislatively since I took office, and now, more than ever, we have seen the importance of this infrastructure and the role it plays in ensuring working families have the support they need.”

“Pre-k is a critical investment in our children’s future, providing them with the educational foundation they need to thrive,”stated Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-6th).“Every child deserves the essential social and educational development offered by pre-k education. By expanding existing pre-k programs and creating new ones, we build upon New Jersey’s strong foundation in ensuring that all children have access to the fundamental curriculum they need to succeed academically. I applaud the governor for his forward-thinking vision in the area of universal pre-k in New Jersey.”

“We commend Gov. Murphy for his steadfast commitment to giving every New Jersey child this important head start in life,” said NJEA President Sean Spiller. “We know that 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.”

"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,” stated Sam Crane, from Pre-K Our Way. “We want to thank the governor and Legislature for their leadership in expanding NJ's pre-K."

Each year in office, Murphy has emphasized early childhood education with the announcement of a new round of state funding. During the Murphy administration, 140 school districts have received funding for either a new high-quality preschool program or to expand an existing preschool to a high-quality program. The expansion has opened preschool seats for over 9,000 children throughout New Jersey. 

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