Murphy marks N.J.’s progress toward achieving universal access to free preschool

Gov. Phil Murphy on Oct. 6 visited Betty McElmon Elementary School in West Long Branch to highlight his commitment to early education and the goal of providing universal preschool programs across New Jersey.

“These children [at BME] are among the more than 2,100 three- and four-year-olds in 27 districts statewide who now have access to free, full-day PreK thanks to the state budget’s investment of $26 million dollars in PreK expansion aid,” said Murphy.

He made a point to emphasize that “there is still a remaining $14 million dollars in available expansion aid in this very year. The [education] department, under [Acting Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan’s] leadership, is currently working with those districts who may not have been part of the initial awards to boost their applications so they can get in on the second tranche of funding.” Districts that didn’t apply in the first round that would like to start a program in the second half of the 2022-23 school year will also have an opportunity to apply for the remaining funds, Murphy added.

“Moreover, we are committed to remaining on this path and moving toward our goal of achieving universal access to free, full-day, high-quality PreK programming for every single young learner in our state,” said Murphy.

“While today we celebrate the opening of a full-day preschool program in West Long Branch, it is also frustrating that in 2022 — in New Jersey and nationally — we are still fighting for universal preschool in our communities,” said AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera, who attended the event. “In this day and age, our young students need and deserve a high-quality, age-appropriate preschool program. The education community always recognized the value of preschool education; now we have a governor and legislature that also understand the value and are committed to making universal preschool a reality.”