In 2022, New Jersey launched Phase I of the New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion to provide full-day, high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year-old children in the state. The two-part plan will guide the state in transitioning to universal preschool. In 2022, New Jersey served 20% of 3-year-olds and 29% of 4-year-olds through its state preschool programs.
The forthcoming Phase II of the Strategic Plan, which will focus on implementation, will be released in fall 2023.
New Jersey’s commitment to transitioning to universal preschool accords with the state’s history of investing in early learning. The state’s first publicly funded preschool program, the Abbott Preschool Program, was created as a result of a 1998 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling on school funding that mandated the creation of state-funded, high-quality preschool programs open to all 3- and 4-year-old children living in 31 of the state’s highest poverty school districts.
Today, New Jersey’s pre-K programs serve children in public-school, Head Start, and community-based programs; more than half of all participating children are served in Head Start or community-based settings. Starting and ongoing pay parity is required for community-based educators who have education and experience levels comparable to those serving in the public schools.
For six years in a row, New Jersey has increased funding for preschool, including a $40 million increase for the 2022-2023 school year.
The state has already begun supporting the infrastructure for universal pre-K. In 2023, the state was awarded a $2.3 million federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B–5) renewal grant to increase workforce capacity, and Governor Murphy announced $120 million in grants for preschool facilities.
New Jersey Department of Education (2022). New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion Phase I: The Foundation.
$120M Available for NJ Preschool Facility Expansions. (2023). New Jersey Business Magazine.
National Institute for Early Education Research. (2023). New Jersey.
National Institute for Early Education Research. (2023). Fact Sheet – New Jersey Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study through Grade 10 (APPLES-10).
Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:
About the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H)
High-quality, affordable early education and care supports children’s healthy development and allows families to work, engage in their own educational pursuits, and/or participate in other aspects of community life. To support children and families in these instrumental ways, research suggests there is a need to expand the availability of early education opportunities across the mixed-delivery system. Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:
- Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
- But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply. Learn More about ELS@H Findings