NJs $26M Launch of First Phase of Universal Preschool Strategic Plan Announced at West Long Branch Elementary School


At Betty McElmon Elementary School in West Long Branch, NJ, Gov. Murphy announces the release of $26 million to establish and expand high-quality preschool programs throughout the State.

Governor Murphy today joined public officials and educators at the Betty McElmon Elementary School in West Long Branch to highlight preschool funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget and release phase 1 of the New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion.

West Long Branch was among 27 school districts to receive a portion of over $26 million in the FY23 budget to establish or expand high-quality preschool programs for local children.

West Long Branch’s Betty Mc Elmon School is very fortunate and appreciative to receive this Preschool Education Aid grant which will allow a full-day preschool for all of our district families,” said West Long Branch Mayor Janet Tucci. “This will serve to provide kindergarten readiness as well as enhance social and emotional development for our children as we prepare them for pre-academics and general life skills.”

The programs in these districts will use the funding to implement full-day preschool programs that are inclusive of children with special needs, offer small class sizes, and have both a certified teacher and an aide.

With these awards, high-quality preschool seats have increased by approximately 18,000 since 2018, for a total of nearly 70,000 seats – including the almost 2,150 seats added through the $26 million awarded to districts last month.

Full-day, high-quality preschool programs offer students a jump start on academic and social-emotional development, and the Governor’s proposed plan for expansion would leverage New Jersey’s network of more than four thousand licensed childcare centers in partnership with our schools to create a continuum of early childhood education that benefits children and families,” said Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families Christine Norbut Beyer. “This funding and the overall expansion plan will help to complement other investments and initiatives across our system that are designed to support families, prevent involvement in the child welfare system through upstream supports, and offer early identification of students’ developmental needs to get them the tools and adaptations they need to excel in an academic setting.”

The $26 million is part of a larger appropriation of $40 million in the FY23 budget for new school districts to operate free, full-day, high-quality preschool programs.

A second application round will open in the coming weeks, with the remaining nearly $14 million to be awarded at a later date.

The $40 million investment is critical for all students to have the opportunity to learn, grow, and gain confidence as they continue their educational journey. The strategic plan will lead New Jersey towards providing all children access to preschool,” said Dr. Angelica Allen McMillan, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education.

Governor Murphy has increased funding for preschool expansion each year since 2018 – with a total of $990 million for new and existing preschool programs included in the most recent State budget.

In addition to existing efforts to fund the expansion of full-day, high-quality preschool programs, the Governor also announced the launch of the New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion Phase 1: The Foundation.

Created in partnership with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, the plan aims to set a foundation for New Jersey’s efforts to provide high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-old children in New Jersey.

With this foundational plan, Governor Murphy takes a giant step toward making New Jersey’s high-quality public preschool program available to every child and family, which will produce benefits for decades to come,” said Dr. Steven Barnett, Founding Co-Director of the NIEER program.

More and more emerging data show the benefits associated with high-quality preschool education. Children enrolled in preschool tend to develop better study habits, stay in school longer and set course on a clear path toward higher education,” said Senator Vin Gopal, Chair of the Senate Education Committee.

The first phase of this plan outlines the benefits, options, and considerations for policy decisions in key areas such as scaling up enrollment, funding, facilities, workforce, and mixed-delivery partnerships. The Phase I plan will be used to galvanize extensive discussion with early childhood care and education stakeholders and will result in a final implementation plan (Phase II) later in 2023, according to the Office of the Governor of New Jersey.

For every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, the state could see up to $7.30 in return of investment. Investing in early childhood education makes sense as it underwrites the success of students in educational achievement, future employment income, lower rates of incarceration, and overall long-term health,” said Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz.

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