Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) announced yesterday that 27 school districts will receive Preschool Expansion Aid (PEA) to establish or expand access to high-quality preschool programs in the 2022-2023 school year. The over $26 million, which was allocated in the FY2023 Budget, ensures that nearly 2,150 additional three- and four-year-old children will have access to a preschool classroom by increasing New Jersey’s preschool seats to nearly 70,000.
Today’s announcement builds on Governor Murphy’s long-term commitment to early education and the eventual goal of providing universal preschool to every three- and four-year-old in New Jersey.
“We know that providing children with access to preschool programs creates short and long term educational and economic benefits for families,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “When we invest in preschool education, we also invest in our youth and in the future success of the State of New Jersey for decades to come. Today’s announcement is another step toward universal preschool and a brighter future for New Jersey’s youngest learners.”
“I am excited to work with the 27 school districts receiving this funding to create and expand their community’s preschool programs,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner of Education. “Governor Murphy’s continued budget allowance for high-quality preschool allows many young children an opportunity to attend preschool and reap the benefits of starting school earlier.”
In July 2022, the DOE broadened the number of districts that could apply for PEA funding from those with 20 percent of students coming from lower-income families (defined by being eligible for free or reduced priced lunch) to districts with 10 percent of students who meet the income eligibility standards.
Schools receiving today’s grant award demonstrated to DOE that they can provide a high-quality preschool program to enrolled students. A high-quality preschool program is defined by a full-day program with a certificated teacher, an aide, and small classes that are inclusive of children with special needs who have an individualized education program.
The FY2023 Budget appropriated $40 million to support grant awards to districts expanding existing preschool programs or districts creating new preschool programs. The remaining FY2023 PEA funding will be awarded at a later date. Districts receiving today’s funding will begin their programs in early October 2022.
One of the districts receiving a boost in preschool aid is Montclair. Sean Spiller, both mayor of Montclair and president of the state teachers union NJEA put out this statement:
I’m thrilled that Montclair will receive more than $970,000 to expand high quality pre-school education in our community. This funding is a culmination of hard work by advocates, and represents a commitment from the Murphy administration to invest in our next generation. Providing early childhood education is one of the most meaningful steps we can take to ensure the very best start for our youngest learners.