The Murphy administration continues to emphasize its commitment to expanded preschool. Yesterday, it did so with the appointment of Cary Booker, the older brother of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, as assistant education commissioner for early childhood education.
The appointment was one of six senior positions approved by the State Board of Education yesterday at its monthly meeting. Several of the positions were to fill seats that have been long-vacant under state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.
The new appointments are:
Abdulsaleem Hasan, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Field Services;
Cary Booker, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Early Childhood Education;
Allen Dupree, Director, Office of School Finance;
Shashi Yellambhatla, Director, Office of Information Technology;
Kim Buxembaum, Director, Office of Special Education;
Leslie Franks-McRae, Director, Office of Supplemental Services.
Booker’s appointment, effective July 1, was the highlight for an administration that is making a focus on preschool a cornerstone of its education agenda.
Two years older than the U.S. senator and a former Rutgers professor, Cary Booker had been working in Gov. Phil Murphy’s policy office, focusing on education.
Cary Booker has always kept a far lower profile than his famous brother, and he was not made available for comment after the meeting. Nor was there further comment from the administration on his appointment.
Murphy has scheduled a major announcement concerning preschool for today in North Brunswick.
This is the first time in nearly a decade that early childhood has been put at an assistant commissioner level in the Department of Education, a move that seeks to affirm the emphasis by Murphy and Repollet on expanding preschool.
Murphy has proposed an additional $68 million in funding for preschool in the neediest districts in fiscal year 2020, to $806 million. That’s on top of $50 million in additional aid this year. If the latest is approved for next year, the increases would add a total of 12,000 seats of state-funded preschool over two years.
First developed for the districts falling under the Abbott v. Burke school equity case, the state-funded programs comprise two years of full-day preschool; class sizes are no more than 15 students; they employ certified teachers and use research-based curricula.