Gov. Phil Murphy is pressing ahead with a plan offer free full-day preschool for every child in New Jersey.

During a visit to the Betty McElmon Elementary School in West Long Branch on Thursday, Murphy announced the release of the preliminary New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion report, produced by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

He said the report will help the Garden State move forward with plans to soon give every child in every Jersey County the chance to attend a high-quality, full-day Pre-K for free.

Murphy said over the past five years the state has increased Pre-K funding “by more than $310 million from when we began, increasing the number of Pre-K classroom seats, and now we’ve increased those seats by a total of 18,000.”

Preschool child in classroom.
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Pre-K expansion

Murphy said 1 in 3 of New Jersey’s estimated 210,000 Pre-K eligible students “now have a seat waiting for them paid for by us.”

The governor said free high-quality preschool programs are critically important because “access to pre-K makes great communities more attractive to and affordable for young working families by removing one of their growing financial barriers, the cost of childcare.”

"It is of particular importance to the working mothers who shoulder an increasingly unbalanced burden in trying to achieve a proper work-life balance," he said.

The governor said as free, full-day pre-K is phased in it becomes a magnet “for young families — either couples expecting to raise a family or couples with young kids to come into those communities and either buy a home or rent.”

Murphy said it is also well-known exposure to pre-K increases the chances of someone attending college and ultimately getting a better job.

Key action steps

The action steps recommended in the report to enable the state to offer free preschool for all kids include:

• Holding information sessions with key stakeholder groups including those in public school, Head Start, private preschool programs, and higher education, as well as parent groups, advocates, and others.

• Identifying key needs and resources for expansion such as availability and quality of facilities, teachers, teaching assistants, administrators, and support in each county (ideally for each district) and aggregate these up to inform state level decisions.

• Creating an updated scaling plan and budget based on aggregated county reports. This will project over time the expected needs for funding and staffing—including at the state-level—to make high quality preschool education available to every child in New Jersey.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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