The directive from the DOE to establish public preschools for all economically-disadvantaged 3-5 year-olds has hit a wall: while school districts are still required to hand in comprehensive roll-out plans, there seems to be a general acknowledgment that the directive is going nowhere fast because the there’s no money.
Today’s Sunbeam reports that the Pennsville School District is backing off of a plan to redesign their facilities to accommodate an estimated 41 preschoolers because, contrary to initial reports, the State will not require a September ’09 start-up date. In addition, said Superintendent Dr. Mark T. Jones,
Negatives of this mandate – and I think every other superintendent in the county would agree with me – is the lack of funding. I’m for this program. I believe in early intervention of our children, but to go ahead with it, I think the state needs to provide funding.
Currently, the State provides funding for at-risk preschoolers only in Abbott districts. The preschool initiative, announced with great fanfare by Corzine, was intended to address the elephant in the room: that New Jersey has many young children with equally desperate needs as those who reside in our poor, urban districts. But New Jersey is too broke to give them the same opportunities we give to kids in Trenton and Camden, so the burden falls on the individual backs of local school districts. Meanwhile, poor kids in Pennsville, which doesn’t even provide full-day kindergarten (also provided in Abbott districts), will stay home.