In New Jersey, 2,393 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs, while 6,324 three-year olds and 7,173 four-year olds are enrolled in Head Start programs. The state currently has 20 percent of its three-year-olds and 28 percent of its four-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool programs. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $10,949. New Jersey is known for its efforts to invest in high quality and culturally responsive pre-K programs. The state has also worked with parents and created pre-K classrooms in partnership with diverse local, community-based providers and preschools.
- What state leaders are saying: Early in 2014, New Jersey received a Race to the Top grant. Gov. Chris Christie praised the award stating, “Ensuring access to a high-quality education for every New Jersey student has been a priority of this Administration since day one in office. We have made great progress to improve the educational experience for all New Jersey students, from children in early learning education programs to students attending one of New Jersey’s many institutions of higher learning.” Education Commissioner Chris Cerf also weighed in sharing, “In the end, we anticipate our effort will reach at least 83,300 high-needs children, from pregnancy through age 8, over the four years of the grant. This grant is the result of the hard work of Departments across the state, as well as the strong voice and support of advocate groups throughout New Jersey, and I thank them for all of their efforts on behalf of our students.”
- Statewide support for early education: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in an early learning parent roundtable in Union City, New Jersey using the event as an opportunity to hear from parents how early learning is helping their children. Local communities are also attempting to look at what makes effective preschools with a parent-led policy boards like the one in Newark.
- Funding increases and additional support: The Star-Ledger in New Jersey reports that U.S. Sen. Corey Booker, the former mayor of Newark, joined officials from the Foundation for Newark’s Future to announce the creation of a $1 million campaign that will “invest in the city’s parents, early childhood teachers and child care center directors to improve the quality and resources for children from birth to age 3.” New Jersey also has plans to use its $44.3 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant to implement a preschool rating system called Grow NJ Kids.