Assembly Members Jasey, Prieto & DeCroce Announce Bipartisan Legislation Expanding Pre-K to More Than 100 N.J. Communities

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce on Tuesday unveiled bipartisan legislation that would expand New Jersey’s public preschool program to additional New Jersey communities.

Currently, less than 40 New Jersey school districts provide three-and four- year-olds with access to publicly funded preschool programs, though the 2008 School Funding Reform Act called for expansion to more than 100 districts.

The bill (A-2572) provides for the expansion of full-day preschool programs for three- and four-year-olds in additional communities.

Any school district that was required to provide universal access to full-day preschool under state law would be required within two years to submit to the education commissioner a five-year plan for the full implementation of a full-day preschool program.

The bill appropriates $110 million for the purpose of effectuating the bill’s provisions.

The announcement took place at Clifton Elementary School #17 with Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin, (D-Essex/Passaic) whose legislative district includes Clifton, Superintendent Richard Tardalo, teachers, parents, early childhood education advocates, community representatives and preschooler.

“New Jersey has the highest quality public pre-k, recognized both nationally and internationally, but the program is not available to every child in New Jersey,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Where a child lives shouldn’t determine whether they have access to high quality pre-k.”

“Pre-k is an important building block in our necessary work to fight poverty in New Jersey,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “In my own district, there are five communities with three- and four-year olds who would directly benefit from this legislation – East Newark, Fairview, Guttenberg, Kearny and North Bergen – but these are only five of more than 100 districts with children who need this opportunity for success.”

“This is the right thing to do,” said DeCroce (R-Essex/Morris/Passaic). “Skills developed in early childhood drive a host of adult outcomes including higher education, higher wages, healthier lifestyles, better health, greater productivity and stronger families.”

The event concluded with a preschool student performance and closing remarks from Assemblywoman Jasey.

“There is momentum: Pre-k is becoming a priority issue,” Jasey said. “Now is our best chance to make sure pre-k comes our way.”