NEWARK – Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz today visited the Ironbound Community Corporation Early Learning Center in Newark where they toured the facility and met with program leaders about the importance of investing in early childhood education.
Senate Democrats have made investment in preschool a priority, including $25 million in the FY17 budget for the expansion of New Jersey’s nationally recognized Pre-K program to more districts, which was subsequently vetoed by the governor. As part of the Senate Democrats’ “New Jersey: Investing in You” initiative, they introduced legislation (S997), sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, to expand early childhood education in the state, as contemplated under the 2008 School Funding Reform Act.
“Expanding Pre-K education is proven to provide lasting student achievement, and is one of the best investments New Jersey can make in its future labor force,” said Senate President Sweeney. “In addition to preparing students academically, high-quality pre-school programs also provide substantial savings to the state over the long term.”
“Early education is a critical part of preparing our students for their educational career and to providing them the best platform for academic success,” said Senator Ruiz. “Studies have shown that attending a preschool program results in substantial, long-term academic benefits for students. Students are better prepared for kindergarten and the first years of school, but also benefit well into their later years. We saw today the exemplary programs that are in place in Newark and that exist throughout the state. We are committed to continuing to invest in these worthy programs.”
The Ironbound Community Corporation Early Learning Center pairs with Ironbound’s Early Head Start Program to create a birth to 5-year-old Early Learning Center. The senators met with Joseph Della Fave, Ironbound Community Corporation, Ex Officio Executive Director; Cynthia Rice, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, Senior Policy Analyst; Sam Crane, Pre-K Our Way, and David Schiarra, Executive Director, Education Law Center.
“Programs like this one at the Ironbound Community Corporation are proof that NJ’s high quality, early childhood education program works and explain why it is a national model,” said David Schiarra. “I applaud Senators Sweeney and Ruiz, Pre-K Our Way, Advocates for Children of NJ and others for standing up to make sure programs like these are available to children across the state and for fighting to make sure those who would seek to pull them apart are not successful.”
“The research clearly shows that early education programs help students become more successful throughout their years in elementary and high school,” stated Joseph Della Fave. “Efforts to expand preschool like those spearheaded by Senate President Sweeney and Senator Ruiz are exactly what will ensure all children have an opportunity to get ahead at an early age.”
“At this time of year, it is wonderful to see so many young children benefiting from a high quality preschool experience. By the time they leave here, they will have all the skills needed to be ready for kindergarten,” said Cynthia Rice, senior policy analyst with Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “But not every preschooler in New Jersey is this lucky. That’s why ACNJ is excited to work with our partners to advocate for preschool expansion, so that more children can benefit from quality preschool, just like these children.”
“Children who have access to high-quality pre-k programs enter kindergarten prepared for school,” said Sam Crane. “Expanding New Jersey’s high-quality 3- and 4-year old preschool program will allow more children to benefit from the state’s preschool program and to begin school ready for success.”
Studies show the educational benefits of attending a high-quality Pre-K program include: Reduced grade retention; decreased placement in special education; improved achievement, and greater rates of high school graduation. Studies also show that students who attend high quality pre-K demonstrate: fewer juvenile and adult arrests; increased participation in the work force as adults; less participation in the public government assistance system, and overall improvement of student health. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that for every dollar spent on preschool, seven dollars in taxpayer money is saved.