In his proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, Gov. Phil Murphy would increased state spending on pre-K programs across New Jersey by $57 million.

It’s part of an ambitious goal to eventually make pre-K available to all New Jersey youngsters, no matter what part of the state they live in.

During a visit to the JFK Elementary School in Jamesburg on Monday, Murphy, acting Department of Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) and Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Middlesex) toured the pre-K classrooms. The governor marveled at how busy the kids were building with blocks, coloring, and playing with water and bubbles.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re all in violent agreement that investment in pre-K is among the smartest investments we can make," Murphy said.

Murphy noted he chaired a commission on public education about 14 years ago

“For every dollar you put into a child at this age, you get about 7 bucks back on society," he said. “Both through their own life and the improvement they’ve made getting to learn earlier, but also the broader economic benefits, it’s probably the smartest economic investment we can make.”

Pre-K students at JFK elementary school in Jamesburg. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

Murphy said that's "a hard one to convince people because it pays off over decades, but that doesn’t make it less worthy.”

Repollet said expanding pre-K is an example of how to make a stronger, fairer New Jersey.

“The fact that we’re expanding pre-K options for an additional 3,500 students is an example of Gov. Murphy’s commitment to early childhood,” he said. “When we talk about a stronger, fairer New Jersey, what does that mean in education? That means we are giving access to individuals. We’re making it equitable and we’re giving a high quality education.

Last year, when the legislature approved a $25 million investment in pre-K, Jamesburg received a grant of almost $1 million.

As a result, JFK elementary school was able to expand its pre-K program from 35 part-time students to 90 full-time students, to improve facilities and to hire more teachers.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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