New Jersey’s high-quality, full-day preschool program for three- and four-year-olds is a national model, and Governor Murphy and the State Legislature have committed to expanding the program to at-risk children across the state. To ensure that families with children who are eligible for, or currently enrolled in, the program are aware of the services provided, Education Law Center has prepared a guide entitled “Children’s Rights in New Jersey’s State-Funded Preschool Program.” The guide is available in English and Spanish, and its author, Jason Pedraza, is available for presentations in both languages.
Mr. Pedraza, a recent graduate of New York University School of Law, was awarded a prestigious Skadden Fellowship at ELC to provide legal services for families with preschool-aged children.
He will focus on the following areas:
- Residency: Ensuring that preschoolers who are homeless, undocumented, or residing with caregivers other than their parents are not unlawfully denied admission to preschool.
- Special education: Securing the full range of educational services that preschoolers with disabilities are entitled to under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
- Discipline: Protecting the rights of children in disciplinary proceedings by working to reduce disproportionate punishment and removal from preschool.
In addition to representing individual families, Mr. Pedraza will address systemic barriers to a high-quality preschool education through litigation and policy change.
“Safeguarding children’s educational rights in preschool, especially those from low-income families and communities, is critical to close the educational opportunity gap,” Mr. Pedraza said. “I look forward to working to make sure New Jersey’s preschool program benefits all eligible children and provides them with the foundation they need to succeed in school.”
As a Skadden Fellow, Mr. Pedraza is working with local advocates and parents to enforce children’s legal rights to access high-quality early education to prepare them for kindergarten and success in school.
In the landmark Abbott v. Burke case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that all three- and four-year-olds in the State’s poorest communities have a right to high-quality preschool under the State constitution’s education guarantee. As a result of the Abbott preschool rulings, over 45,000 children in 31 districts attend “Abbott Preschool,” a unified, mixed delivery system considered by experts to be among the strongest, most effective programs in the nation.
ELC welcomes Mr. Pedraza, a former Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar at NYU School of Law, who served as a research assistant on a project to create constitutional history teaching modules for New York City public high school students and as a consultant for the New York State Education Department through Columbia Law School’s Center for Public Research and Leadership.
Prior to law school, Mr. Pedraza received a master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, where he was an annual fund scholar and completed the School Law Institute. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University.
“ELC is honored to have Jason working to advance the right to preschool education for at-risk children in New Jersey and across the nation,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “Jason’s Skadden Fellowship expands ELC’s commitment to ensuring public education begins with high-quality preschool starting at age three.”
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