State officials must move quickly to ensure that tens of thousands of children attending preschools operated by non-profit, community providers are housed in safe, appropriate classrooms, according to a report released by ELC and the Association for Children of New Jersey.

The report analyzes data contained in the Abbott districts’ 2003-04 preschool plans submitted to the NJ Department of Education. The report was co-authored by ELC Director of Research Joan Ponessa and ACNJ Policy Analyst Cynthia Rice, and presented at an oversight hearing of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools on September 14th.

The key findings in the report are:

  • 66 percent of Abbott community preschool providers do not own, but lease their facilities.
  • The condition of the community providers has not been assessed by the districts.
  • Providers that do not own their facilities are ineligible for state construction funds under current policy.

The report recommends:

  • The NJ DOE develop a standard facilities assessment instrument.
  • Districts be directed to assess all provider facilities, including classroom space, natural lighting and outdoor play space. The assessments should be part of the districts’ Five Year Long Range Facilities Plans.
  • Each district’s Early Childhood Advisory Council should develop a specific plan for where preschool children will be housed over the next 10 years.
  • A state advisory council/committee should be convened to explore additional funding options for community preschools to upgrade their facilities.

“The State must ensure every Abbott preschooler, regardless of where they are housed, attend preschool in a facility that is safe and educationally-adequate,” said Ms. Ponnessa. “It is time for the NJDOE to step up and tackle this critical issue.”

The full report was presented at a “Conference/Training Session” at the Bloustein School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick Campus, on Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Sharon Krengel
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