LONG BRANCH – During a visit to the Joseph M. Ferraina Early Childhood Learning Center, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., called for federal investments to expand access to high quality preschool to address the tens of thousands of New Jersey children who currently lack access to early high-quality education.
The Joseph M. Ferraina Early Childhood Learning Center only serves young children, and it demonstrates the school district’s commitment to providing high-quality early learning experience for each of the children who attend. Pallone was joined by representatives from Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) and Michael Salvatore, Long Branch Public Schools Superintendent, on a tour illustrating the importance of quality preschool is making a difference in the lives of his youngest constituents.
About 35,000 of New Jersey’s children lack access to high-quality preschools that help children read on target by third grade. Research shows that kids who attend high-quality preschool have higher academic achievement, struggle less in school, and more often overcome barriers to learning, leading to a drop in need for special education services. Children continue to reap the benefits of high-quality preschool as adults and are less likely to live in poverty and less likely to be incarcerated.
“Investing in our nation’s low-income children through greater access to high quality preschool is a critical step to leveling the playing field for them to succeed later in life,” said Pallone (D-NJ-06). “Too often state budgets, like New Jersey’s, are unable to provide enough funding for high-quality preschool, and I believe that the federal government must step in. High-quality education, including preschool, is instrumental to the growth and success of our nation.”
“While New Jersey has led the nation on providing preschool to low-income children in districts like Long Branch, thousands of children are still denied this early education simply because of where they live,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which is leading the push for preschool expansion. “It is best for all children, our communities and our state if young students arrive at kindergarten with the foundation they need to succeed in school.”
“It is time for the state to increase its investment in preschool and for the federal government to help states accomplish that goal so all children graduate career- or college-ready,” Zalkind said.
“Realizing the state of the economy, it is imperative federal dollars are invested in guaranteed outcomes. One sure to win investment is the expansion of early childhood education. As literacy standards are increasing with the common core state standards the vocabulary gap will likely expand without additional high quality early childhood programs. The greatest equalizer children have is a strong foundation of literacy introduced before age five. Last year we sent more than 95 percent of our seniors to college who were enrolled in our public preschool program 13 years ago,” said Michael Salvatore, Superintendent of Schools.
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