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Cunningham Listens To Experts On Expanding Preschool Education

Senator Sandra Cunningham listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.

TRENTON – Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Chairwoman of the Abbott Subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Committee of the Public Schools, today said it is the responsibility of the leaders of this State to ensure proper early educational programs, because children greatly benefit from preschool classes.

Senator Cunningham held a Committee meeting today in Jersey City to discuss preschool expansion, which has been mandated in the new school funding reform act which was signed into law earlier this year.

“By providing our children with preschool classes we are able to create a strong foundation of learning and social skills that will help them develop and achieve throughout their lives,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “It’s becoming clear that preschool helps children be successful when they begin more formal schooling. Quality preschool programs for young children living in poorer districts have demonstrated lasting benefits and a return on the State’s investment in education.”

According to Senator Cunningham, the Department of Education’s Assistant Commissioners Jacqueline Jones and Gerald Vernotica, and representatives Jeanette Page-Hawkins and Beverly Wellons from the Department of Human Services provided the committee with information on the how to expand the preschool program Statewide.

“It’s my belief, and the rationale of the New Jersey Supreme Court, that children in the Abbott districts who receive preschool education beginning at age three can close much of the early achievement gap for low-income children, leading to greater success in school and life,” said Senator Cunningham. “The Abbott preschool program is a full-day, full-year program, and is available to all three- and four-year olds residing in an Abbott district. School districts that fail to enroll their eligible preschoolers must develop a plan to boost enrollment. We need to make sure that those children most in need do not fall between the cracks, and are receiving a quality education, as mandated by the courts.”

Senator Cunningham added that, “New Jersey Abbott districts have some of the best preschool education programs, and it is important that we expand the program to other low- and middle-class districts in order to help provide a solid educational start for all children.”

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