NEW JERSEY 101.5

More than 130,000 children are attending preschool in New Jersey, according to a new report, but tens of thousands of young children still lack access.

Flickr User, abbnormaly

The Annie E. Casey Foundation found 62 percent of New Jersey's three and four-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2011. Children living in low-income families were less likely to be enrolled in preschool, with 55 percent attending, but the national number was 37 percent.

"New Jersey is doing much better than the rest of the country in terms of the number of young children attending preschool," said Cecilia Zalkind, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).

However, she noted thousands of children are denied early education simply because of where they live. New Jersey has been providing high-quality, state-funded preschool for years to students in the state's poorest districts, but has not kept up with a 2008 mandate that the funding be provided to other struggling districts.

ACNJ has called for a $10 million down payment by the state that could be used to expand existing preschools from a half to full day and create new preschool classrooms.

"As state departments begin building their budgets, we urge the Legislature and the Governor to view this as a critical investment in our children's education and the future of our state - an investment we can no longer afford to delay," Zalkind said.