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States Outpace NJ In Preschool Funding [AUDIO]

More bad news when it comes to education in New Jersey. The state’s public preschools have dropped from 9th to 16th in the nation.

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New Jersey spends more money per student in public preschool than any other state, yet the state has lost ground in providing 4-year-olds access to preschool.

According to the 2011 Preschool Yearbook released by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, the state’s program remains limited to most of the disadvantaged districts.

“We have one of the best preschool programs in the country, but we haven’t expanded it” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Zalkind says while the state has additional funding in the budget to support enrollment in districts that have preschool, the promise of preschool to other children in about 90 low-income districts has never been met.

“While we’re doing great on quality, we haven’t brought this great program to more kids.”

She said they plan to push state legislators to implement the preschool expansion program that was included in the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, but was frozen due to budget concerns in the recession.

“If New Jersey is in the middle of a comeback, this is a great place to invest that money” said Zalkind.

She said there is growing awareness across the nation that preschool is necessary not only to get children ready for school, but making sure that they’re reading at the right age, “ultimately more children that attend preschool graduate high school and go on to college than those that don’t.”

The bottom line is that states are beginning to outpace us, said Zalkind.

“Even schools and states that had similar financial challenges as New Jersey have managed to expand preschool.”

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