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Governor announces $20M more for pre-K programs

New funding will go to 28 school districts, says Murphy, a longtime champion of preschool education

Gov. Phil Murphy went to Union City on the first day of school for many New Jersey public school students to announce a further investment in one of his primary education initiatives — pre-K programs across the Garden State.

A total of 28 districts — comprising 1,450 young students — from Ocean Township to Kearny will share the $20 million in funding announced by the governor on Tuesday. During the last school year, Murphy announced funding for preschool programs in 64 other school districts.

The first-term Democrat has long been a champion of preschool education, and he used the event at the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Center for Early Childhood Education to make his case again.

“The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs has estimated that for every one dollar that we invest in a child at the very beginning of their educational life, we recoup up to nine dollars in overall return as they grow up,” he said, as state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet and others stood alongside.

“We know that increasing the general knowledge of vocabulary of a child before they enter the first grade is the single highest correlate with later success,” said Murphy. “But we can’t wait until kindergarten to address the deficiencies with which many children arrive.”

The Union City school district is not among the recipients of the additional aid, but its pre-K programs were touted by the governor as a “model for other communities, not just statewide, but nationwide.”

The new funding becomes available to districts as of Oct. 1.

During a subsequent question-and-answer session, Murphy fielded media queries on a range of other topics, including Newark’s ongoing water problems, which arose after tests detected lead in filtered tap water.

Once again, he declined to term the problem a “crisis,” and again said that the current situation did not rise to a level that necessitated the declaration of a state of emergency.

“It is a challenge, that’s for sure,” he said. “I reiterate that we have found no reason to declare a state of emergency because a state of emergency implies that you’ve exhausted all levels of government support, whether that’s Newark, Essex County or the state. And that’s not the case. We continue to provide bottled water for the folks who are served by the Pequannock Reservoir and that have lead service lines.”

He urged patience and prudence. “My hope is that, in the next couple of weeks, we’ll have enough testing back to be able to make much more informed long-term decisions,” he said.

Murphy also applauded Newark Mayor Ras Baraka for his handling of the problem and passed on an opportunity to comment on Baraka’s recent run-ins with the press over access to public meetings.

“We are, on the margin, going to favor transparency and openness,” he said. “And I’ll let others speak for themselves.”

School Districts Receiving New or Additional Preschool Aid in 2019-2020

AtlanticBuena Regional$1,032,077
AtlanticSomers Point$456,163
BurlingtonBeverly City$498,242
BurlingtonBurlington Twp.$213,006
BurlingtonEdgewater Park$478,287
CamdenGloucester Twp.$1,451,363
CamdenMount Ephraim$451,535
Cape MayDennis Twp.$622,750
Cape MayMiddle Twp.$687,686
GloucesterNational Park$214,398
HunterdonHigh Bridge$273,120
MonmouthOcean Twp.$586,772
OceanOcean Twp.$971,584
PassaicWoodland Park$261,360
SussexStillwater Twp.$286,902
Source: N.J. Department of Education.

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