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TOP 25 NJ SCHOOL DISTRICTS MOST IN NEED OF PRESCHOOL

December 12, 2013

New Jersey school districts such as Wildwood, Lakewood, Dover, Freehold Borough and Bayonne are among those most in need of high quality preschool as authorized by the Legislature in the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), the state's landmark school aid law enacted in 2008.

The SFRA authorized expansion of the nationally acclaimed Abbott Preschool Program to include not only children in the 31 poor urban districts, but all other low-income children in the state. Full program implementation was to have occurred over five years, or by the 2013-14 school year.

Governor Chris Christie has steadfastly refused to provide any new funds for preschool expansion, leaving some 40,000 low-income three- and four-year-olds without access to the early education boost they need for kindergarten readiness and later school success.    

Education Law Center analyzed the most recent data on preschool expansion to identify the 25 districts most in need of this program. “Need” in this case was determined by district poverty rate (ranging from 63 to 89%) and if a district was serving fewer than 50% of eligible preschoolers. In every case, these districts are eligible under the SFRA for universal enrollment of all three- and four-year-olds residing in the community. About half of these districts currently offer no full-day preschool. In total, over 10,000 children are eligible for full-day preschool in these 25 districts, yet fewer than 1,000 children are presently served. The need for preschool in these poor communities is overwhelming.    

Topping the ELC preschool list are Woodlynne Borough (Camden County),  Atlantic City (Atlantic County), Seaside Heights (Ocean County), and Wildwood (Cape May County). All 25 districts are majority low-income, and all but three are majority African American and Latino. More than half have higher than average percentages of English Language Learners.

For a complete list of preschool eligible students by district, please click here.

The Abbott Preschool Program, established following a 1998 ruling in the landmark Abbott v. Burke case, has quickly become a national model with high quality standards and demonstrated effectiveness. Longitudinal studies show that students enrolled in full-day preschool programs in the poorest districts perform better in math and reading, are less likely to be retained, and have lower special education classification rates. Results also show that attending two years of preschool has a greater impact than attending only one. The benefits of preschool are especially important to low-income students who often come to school less prepared than their peers and struggle to catch up. 

"Expanding the Abbott Preschool Program statewide is one step we can take to improve educational opportunity and outcomes for New Jersey's most vulnerable children," said ELC Senior Attorney Ruth Lowenkron. "Not only is preschool expansion required by law, it's essential to ensuring all low-income children are prepared for school and for future academic success. We simply can't narrow gaps in K-12 achievement without universal preschool.”

ELC is joining advocates across the state to make funding preschool expansion a top priority in the upcoming FY15 State budget.

 

Related Stories:

NJ PRESCHOOL ENROLLMENT: PROGRESS STOPS UNDER CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION

OBAMA EMBRACES NJ HIGH QUALITY PRESCHOOL AS MODEL FOR THE NATION

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24