In 1998, the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated full-day, high quality preschool programs for all three- and four-year-old children in Abbott school districts. ELC has carefully monitored State and district progress in meeting the Abbott program goal of universal enrollment of all children in the Abbott districts and the regulatory target of enrolling 90% of the eligible universe of children in each community. For more detailed information, see the ELC publication The Abbott Preschool Program: A 10-year Progress Report.
The State also provides funding for preschool programs in districts that do not meet the eligibility criteria of an Abbott district. The Early Childhood Program Aid (ECPA), part of the Comprehensive Education Improvement Finance Act (CEIFA) of 1996, is a categorical aid program for low-income districts to provide full-day kindergarten and preschool classes for all four-year-old children. Approximately 100 non-Abbott districts receive this funding. In 2004 the State began a competetive grant program, the Early Launch to Learning Initiative (ELLI), to expand preschool to four-year-olds across New Jersey. All non-Abbott districts were eligible to receive partial funding for low-income students to support, expand, or enhance preschool programs. These programs are not required to meet many of the standards required of Abbott preschool.
In 2008, the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) mandated the expansion of high-quality preschool to low-income children across the state. Under the SFRA, universal districts – those in District Factor Group A & B or CD with over 40% low-income students – are required to provide preschool to all three- and four-year-olds, while targeted districts are required to provide preschool to low-income children only. Approximately 30,000 more students are eligible for preschool services under this plan. However, implementation of the program has been delayed by the State’s budget difficulties.
The following interactive report presents preschool enrollment data for Abbott and non-Abbott districts from 1999-2000 to the present.