Gov. Phil Murphy on Feb. 22 visited the Brooks Crossing school’s Deans Campus in Monmouth Junction to share details about additional funding to expand preschool in New Jersey.

“So from the very beginning, I’m proud to say that our administration has held access to a good education as one of our core values,” Murphy began. “We understand in particular that high-quality early education builds a foundation for lifelong learning.

“Today I am proud to again announce that another 16 districts … have opened their doors to high-quality, full-day PreK programs in their community and again, importantly, free of charge,” Murphy said, a move that builds on the action last fall expanding access to free PreK to 27 new school districts.

After giving a quick shoutout to AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera and citing New Jersey’s educator shortage and the need for educational facilities, Murphy added, “I’m thrilled to announce that on March 1st … the Department of Education will launch a $120 million dollar grant funding opportunity from federal American Rescue Plan funds for preschool facility expansion. That should be a game-changer.”

Near the end of his remarks, Murphy said, “I wish we could flip a light switch and do it overnight. We can’t, but we will get there to universal access, full-day, free PreK for all three- and four-year-olds in the great state of New Jersey.”

After the event, Chiera recalled that her choices for teaching preschool upon graduating from Kean College in 1976 with a certification in early childhood education were federal programs such as Head Start or a private nursery/church school.

“Today’s announcement by Gov. Murphy to expand preschool in New Jersey made me understand how far we have traveled and how much we have learned about the value of educating our youngest children,” Chiera said. “Preschool classrooms establish learning foundations, and through these age-appropriate, high-quality programs and curriculum, students are exposed to social and emotional components and skills that prepare them for a learning journey that will last a lifetime.”

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