Since 1998, when the NJ Supreme Court issued the first judicial directive in the nation requiring a state to provide high quality preschool for the neediest children, New Jersey has been a leader in preschool education. [See The Abbott Preschool Program at 15, prepared by Education Law Center, for more information.]
The success of the Abbott preschool program was recognized by the State Legislature in 2008, when lawmakers included in the new school funding formula (School Funding Reform Act, or SFRA) a plan to expand the program to all at-risk, three- and four-year-old children across the state.
The significance of New Jersey’s program has also been acknowledged at the national level. In 2013, when President Obama announced the federal initiative to expand preschool around the country, the Abbott program was a clear model for the educational requirements in the national proposal.
But even with the success and high profile of the state’s existing preschool program, expansion under the SFRA has not occurred. Tight state budgets have put the plan on the back burner, despite the best efforts of advocates and advocacy organizations.
Pre-K Our Way, a not-for-profit organization launched earlier this year, aims to change this situation. This nonpartisan effort is led by a growing leadership group, including former Republican Governor Tom Kean and former Democratic Governor Jim Florio. The organization is coordinated through a diverse group of business leaders, parents, foundations, early childhood educators, community leaders, interested citizens and elected officials, who are determined to make sure each child gets a strong start in life through effective preschool education.
In an effort to bring people together to talk about their aspirations for NJ children – and how quality preschool experiences can prepare each child for success in school and life – Pre-K Our Way is hosting three Regional Forums this spring. The forums kick off with a reception and buffet dinner the evening before a full-day conference, where participants will control the agenda and guide discussion. The purpose of the forums is to strategize, build alliances and take action to make preschool available to every child in their community.
For over two decades, ELC has been at the forefront of the effort to ensure at-risk children access to high quality preschool, including implementation of the Abbott preschool program. ELC is pleased to support Pre-K Our Way to achieve the goal of continuing NJ’s national leadership in the delivery of early education.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications