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Gov. Phil Murphy joined public officials and educators this week at the Betty McElmon Elementary School in West Long Branch to highlight preschool funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget and release phase 1 of the New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion.

West Long Branch was among 27 school districts to receive a portion of over $26 million in the FY23 budget to establish or expand high-quality preschool programs for local children. The programs in these districts will use the funding to implement full-day preschool programs that are inclusive of children with special needs, offer small class sizes, and have both a certified teacher and an aide. With these awards, high-quality preschool seats have increased by approximately 18,000 since Governor Murphy took office, for a total of nearly 70,000 seats – including the almost 2,150 seats added through the $26 million awarded to districts last month.

“There are countless benefits to providing a high-quality education to every preschool-aged child in our state, including making New Jersey a more affordable place to live for young, working families,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “We have made significant strides in our effort to offer universal preschool throughout New Jersey and must continue to seek ways to achieve this critical objective. My administration will consider all possibilities as we move towards this goal and will continue to invest in preschool education so that more New Jersey children can have opportunities to succeed.”

“Governor Murphy’s commitment to expanding access to high-quality preschool programs will benefit our students and New Jersey for years to come,” said Dr. Angelica Allen McMillan, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education. “The $40 million investment is critical for all students to have the opportunity to learn, grow, and gain confidence as they continue their educational journey. The strategic plan will lead New Jersey towards providing all children access to preschool.”

The $26 million is part of a larger appropriation of $40 million in the FY23 budget for new school districts to operate free, full-day, high-quality preschool programs. A second application round will open in the coming weeks, with the remaining nearly $14 million to be awarded at a later date. The Governor has increased funding for preschool expansion throughout each year of his Administration – with a total of $990 million for new and existing preschool programs included in the most recent State budget.

In addition to existing efforts to fund the expansion of full-day, high-quality preschool programs, the Governor also announced the New Jersey Strategic Plan for Preschool Expansion Phase 1: The Foundation. Created in partnership with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, this plan sets a foundation for New Jersey’s efforts to provide high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-old children in New Jersey.

The first phase of this plan outlines the benefits, options, and considerations for policy decisions in key areas such as scaling up enrollment, funding, facilities, workforce, and mixed-delivery partnerships. The Phase I plan will be used to galvanize extensive discussion with early childhood care and education stakeholders and will result in a final implementation plan (Phase II) later in 2023.

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