Advocates seek expansion of preschool in New Jersey’s low-income districts

A new report finds New Jersey is falling further behind in providing preschool to children in low -income communities.

New Jersey has dropped from ninth to 16th among the states in the percentage of 4-year-olds with access to preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers.

That is distressing, said Cecilia Zalkind, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

“We are regarded as having the best program in the country with the best outcomes for kids,” she said Friday. “So while that’s positive it really is discouraging to know we have not expanded that so more kids can benefit.”

Currently, 35 low-income districts offer preschool to more than 40,000 students. Zalkind wants the state to make it a priority to expand the program to another 90 districts.

“We’re very excited that Gov. Christie has supported the existing preschool program. He’s talking about a New Jersey comeback from the economic downturn,” she said. “We’d like to see a down payment to expand preschool be part of that comeback.”

Zalkind says increasing access to preschool is a good investment for the future because it gets kids ready to learn.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.