(TRENTON) – Aiming to ensure children in New Jersey receive high quality education from their earliest days in school, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo, Pamela Lampitt, Paul Moriarty, and Benjie Wimberly to create a task force to evaluate establishing and implementing full-day kindergarten programs across the state was approved Thursday by the Assembly Education Committee.
“Research demonstrates that students who attend full-day kindergarten programs are better prepared for school than children enrolled in half-day sessions,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “But sometimes, full-day programs are not available in a child’s school district. This task force will help us understand how to implement full-day kindergarten in all districts to make sure children have equal access to high quality programs.”
The bill (A-654) would create a 22-member task force to study and evaluate issues surrounding the establishment and implementation of full-day kindergarten in New Jersey school districts. It will study and consider issues including, but not limited to:
· review of existing research, studies, and data concerning full-day kindergarten, including studies that examine the long-term academic, social and emotional impacts;
· implementation issues associated with full-day kindergarten, including but not limited to, staffing needs, facility space, and class size;
· funding needed for full-day kindergarten, including sources of funding;
· curriculum comparisons between full-day kindergarten and half-day kindergarten;
· opinions and recommendations of parents and elementary school teachers regarding full-day kindergarten; and
· the feasibility of offering full-day kindergarten in school districts statewide.
“About 15 to 20 percent of New Jersey schools do not offer full-day kindergarten,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Students in those schools do not have the opportunity to gain the critical head start full-day kindergarten can offer. That’s why it’s so important that we take a look at how to create effective full-day programs that will prepare students for their academic careers and beyond.”
“”The benefits of full-day kindergarten are undeniable,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Studies have shown children in full-day kindergarten are equipped with stronger learning and socialization skills, have better attendance, and have enhanced social, emotional and behavioral development, to name a few. It is important that New Jersey help support full-day kindergarten programs so that all children have the opportunity to build the strong academic foundation these programs provide.”
The task force will be comprised of the Commissioner of Education; one public member each appointed by the President of the Senate, Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly; and 17 members appointed by the Governor, including three superintendents of schools, two elementary school principals, two kindergarten teachers, and one member each recommended by the New Jersey Child Care Association, New Jersey Education Association, American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, Garden State Coalition of Schools, as well as three members of the public, at least one of whom shall be a parent. Public members appointed to the task force will have expertise related to its work.
“As we encourage our students to excel in school, we want to be sure to equip them for success at an early age,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Children in full-day kindergarten programs have extra time to build essential skills, and teachers to instill a lifelong love of learning. Full-day kindergarten should be an integral part of early childhood education in all New Jersey schools.”
“Every parent wants the best for their child, starting with a quality education,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Students will undoubtedly face unique challenges in the 21st century, and we should do all we can to help them rise to those challenges. By guaranteeing full-day kindergarten in New Jersey, we will better prepare children for their futures.”
The task force is required to issue a final report to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its organization regarding the group’s findings and recommendations for establishing full-day kindergarten. The task force will expire 30 days after the issuance of its final report.
The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.