Our two children, Jack and Paige, are currently 4 and almost 3 years old. They’re excited to be going back to school after a fun summer of beach, family and almost daily activities. We’re sure that—like last year—they’ll be eager to start each day and look forward to Monday mornings, getting back with friends and teachers!
Because of our personal family choice, both of our kids attend a wonderful private pre-k program. Although we each have large families who live nearby, we made a decision several years ago to enroll our kids in pre-k because of the opportunities that preschool provides for learning, growth, social skill development—and future opportunity. We know the benefits of improved reading scores, and see the daily growth in self-confidence, language, skill development and interaction.
How do we do it? We both work full-time, with one income dedicated primarily to fund pre-k for Jack and Paige. We’d have loved the chance to have NJ’s high-quality, publicly-funded pre-k available in our community—for our children. Although we personally won’t benefit from expansion, we know that other families will. We were able to make an economic choice and pay for high-quality pre-k for our family because it wasn’t otherwise available in our community. Nevertheless it’s been hard—but it’s been the right choice. That’s why we support pre-k expansion to more NJ communities. It’s only right!
Teacher in Cape May County
‘Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants—doing nothing but living and walking about—came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child’s way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little by little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.’
This quote came from the woman herself who started preschool many many years ago. She found that the poorest children in Italy can, and should, learn before entering school.
A child’s brain can absorb information at a very quick rate of speed at an early age. The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development. A newborn’s brain is about 25 percent of its approximate adult weight. But by age 3, it has grown dramatically by producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, or synapses, between these cells.
So how can we ignore the facts, the research and the studies? Why wait to educate? Educating children in preschool is one of the most important responsibilities an educational establishment has.
The Clifton School District hasn’t always had the preschool opportunity that it has now. With many families in the community struggling to afford preschool for their children, Superintendent Richard Tardalo understood that increased access was essential for Clifton families. Using a recent federal preschool expansion grant, the Clifton School District was able to add 150 students to its public preschool program for the current school year. Clifton’s Preschool Supervisor Danica Davidman believes that preschool “allows Clifton’s hard-working families the comfort of knowing that their children are safe, taken care of and in a high-quality learning environment that is teaching valuable skills for later in life.” Clifton’s grant-funded preschool, The Clifton Early Learner Academy, “really sets kids up for later success—preschool allows children to fall in love with learning and going to school,” Davidman says.
Surrounding communities are fortunate to have access to New Jersey’s high-quality pre-k program as a regular part of their educational offerings—not just through a federal grant. The neighboring city of Passaic has been a long-time beneficiary of the existing publicly funded pre-k program in New Jersey. That program, however, is currently limited to fewer than 40 New Jersey communities—like Passaic, Garfield, and Paterson, which surround Clifton. Clifton, however, does not have the state’s publicly funded program—and has expanded pre-k access only through the recent federal grant.
Families in the Clifton community understand the value of New Jersey’s pre-k program to their children. One mother, Gina Suarez, says that before Clifton expanded its program, “the search was much harder to find a full day, free of charge program—I ended up having to put my son in daycare. Growing up in Passaic, we never had trouble finding high-quality programs at a reasonable price. I didn’t realize that Clifton and Passaic were so different in terms of preschool access considering they’re right next to each other. It shouldn’t matter where you live—children should have access to preschool regardless of their zip code.”
Through the recent 4-year federal grant, the Clifton School District is able to provide high-quality preschool for more of New Jersey’s 4-year-olds; preparing them for a lifetime of success, both in and out of school. Pre-k expansion for more communities, and for both 3- and 4-year-olds in New Jersey, would enable Clifton’s current pre-k opportunity to be available permanently to more children in their community and in others.
Accountant and Hudson County resident
My name is Lorena Baboci. Myself, my husband, and our then 2-year-old son moved to North Bergen in June 2015 after living for over five years in New York City. We have been striving to find a good pre-k or daycare for our only son—unfortunately we decided that the best option for us was a daycare where we pay almost $1,500/month.
We chose to pay this much, not because we make more than others or because our son is better than others; he is still a child that needs to be molded into a good citizen for the community he lives in. We chose to pay because we were not able to find a school that provides quality service in our district.
We believe education is the most important part of a person’s life, apart from family, and we are willing to sacrifice our vacations and work harder to pay for our son. We want him to be surrounded by children who participate in good pre-k as well, but not all can afford high-quality pre-k education.
In May 2016 our son will be 3 years old and we are still looking to help our son be in a good state-funded pre-k, help ourselves in saving for our son’s college years instead of paying college-tuition fees for a daycare, and help other children in our neighborhood who are or will be my son’s friends, have the same opportunity of a state-funded pre-k. We hope our story helps legislators bring state-funded pre-k to more school districts in Hudson county and to more of New Jersey.
Former Governor of New Jersey
There are a few priority reforms we need to make to improve education in our state. One of our highest priorities should be the availability of quality pre-k programs for all of our children. These programs offer our best hope for future success in school and life.
While waiting for the 2008 law to be funded, some NJ school districts have acted on the importance of pre-k. Working locally, these individual school districts collaborate with community organizations and others to prioritize access to pre-k education – and the benefits that it provides for some, if not all, of their youngest citizens. As an example, the Newton Public Schools in Sussex County use a combination of local dollars to support pre-k. These local dollars are made possible by careful management and redefining district priorities, nonprofit partners and other sources to offer pre-k to the community. While waiting for the promised state funding per the 2008 law for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the community, pre-k access for Newton students is funded through sliding scale tuition along with some school district funds. All 3- and 4-year-old special needs students in Newton already are state-funded for pre-k per NJ’s 2008 law.
Newton’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. G. Kennedy Greene, hopes that additional pre-k access can be provided in Newton as promised by the 2008 law. While waiting for the law to be funded, Dr. Greene and the Newton Public Schools are moving ahead with a plan to add up to three more classrooms to their current location, and are excited to work with local providers to meet the demand for pre-k access in Newton. Dr. Greene says, “We can’t possibly have enough classroom space even with the long-ago promised state funding and our planned building expansion. It is important for us to collaborate with area providers to meet the demand from our community for high-quality pre-k for all of our 3- and 4-year-olds.”
Working with the community, the Newton Public Schools have prioritized pre-k education – and the benefits that it provides for their youngest citizens.
Executive Director of Egenolf Early Childhood Center
Our program in Union County just celebrated its 125th anniversary of delivering high quality care and education to young children. Among attendees of the celebration were graduates of the program who went on to become business owners, advocates, medical professionals, and educators. Many excelled in schools and were among the academic leaders in their classes. ALL of them attributed their success to the great start they had in preschool through the high quality program they experienced. Preschool matters…it matters to families, to children, and to the economic stability of the country.
Former Governor of New Jersey
The investment we make today in the education of our youngest citizens will yield real results for both our children’s and state’s future. Assuring that our children enter school ready to learn should be our highest priority.
Former Chairman of Maher Terminals LLC
Why does public education begin at age 5? We know our children begin learning years before they enter Kindergarten. It is time to provide all of our young people with early, high-quality educational programs prior to entering school.
Former First Lady of New Jersey
As a former elementary school teacher, I have witnessed the success students enjoy when they arrive in Kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed. I am confident that providing all children with these pre-k opportunities will enhance their school performance.
Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey
The Advocates for Children of New Jersey work every day to give every child the chance to grow up healthy, safe and educated. Universal pre-k is a key goal to assure children develop the skills they need to succeed in school and life.
Former Chairman and CEO of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
The development of our children’s capacity to learn begins very early in life. It is time to provide all 3- and 4-year-olds with high-quality pre-k opportunities that meet their early learning needs.
President and CEO of Peapack-Gladstone Bank
Investing in our youngest citizens is wise for our state’s economic future. Investing in quality pre-k programs is the key to keeping pace with the rest of the country and the world.
Superintendent of the Woodbine School District
Woodbine School District educates over 90% of its community’s preschool-aged students. We continue to be amazed by the increase in our preschoolers’ language proficiency, writing skills and number recognition and awareness. This early educational start allows our preschool teachers more time to identify and support Special Needs children as well as recognize students who may need small group intervention at the kindergarten level. The universal preschool program is the foundation that we built upon that resulted in significant academic strides, thereby reducing our school’s achievement gap.
Kindergarten teacher in Monmouth County, NJ
My name is Randee Mandelbaum. After teaching Kindergarten for 20 years, I truly understand the importance of children attending pre-k. Pre-k benefits children both academically and socially. I have witnessed the difference between children who have attended pre-k and those who have not. I believe the skills they learn in pre-k provide them a solid foundation for future learning. Even in the first few days of the Kindergarten year, I can identify learning gaps between children with and without pre-k experience.
I administered a packet of assessments to my class on the first week of school this past year. I had the children complete a self-portrait, writing and two math assessments. I administer these assessments each month to monitor growth and progress. I also use the results from these assessments to drive my instruction, and create lesson plans to teach every child at their learning level.
Featured are the results of the packet. As you look through the drawings, all the students on the left did not attend a pre-k program, while all of the students on the right completed a pre-k class. A potent comparison is the fourth image. This shows the biggest gap. You can see that the student on the left, without pre-k, does not know any letters, cannot write any letters and does not know how to write her name, while the student on the right, with a pre-k education, writes his name and can write most of the letters of the alphabet comfortably.
As you can imagine, I need to differentiate, scaffold and tier my lessons based on the children’s ability. While I must catch up the children without pre-k experience, I still need to teach and reach all children at their level and challenge the children who have already mastered the pre-k skills. I would not have this dilemma if all the students had a pre-k experience.
There are also many other issues that slow down the level of learning in Kindergarten during September and October due to children who did not attend pre-k. Here are just a few:
- Separation from parent
- Bathroom routines, buttoning and unbuttoning clothing, bathroom independence
- Sharing one teacher’s attention with 25 other children
- Raising your hand and waiting your turn, not calling out
- Writing and reading their name
- Following 2-3 step directions
- Using a scissor and glue properly
- Stamina to stay in school for a full day
- Problem solving
- Gaining a sense of self
- Cooperating and collaborating with peers
Children who attended pre-k nearly always come into my class with the essential social, emotional and academic skills, ready to launch a successful year in Kindergarten. That’s why I believe it’s time to bring Pre-K Our Way.
Co Owner / Director of Little Lamb Preschool-Keener Kids Inc.
I’m a private preschool owner with over 30 years of experience in Vineland, New Jersey, who works with New Jersey’s public preschool program to bring high-quality care and instruction to more 3- and 4-year-olds. My school, Little Lamb Preschool-Keener Kids, Inc. has been partnering with the Vineland public schools for 16 years. We educate 90 students every day at our 6-classroom facility. Each classroom has a teacher with either a BA and/or a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education to ensure high-quality instruction and care.
Unfortunately, there are more children in need of high-quality preschool than there are preschools to serve them or programs that working families can afford. Many children come from families where parents work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Their parents may not have the time, resources or education to provide the early learning all children need. Preschool programs like mine provide these families and their children with a free, six-hour educational program that ensures that they will not be left behind. But too many kids miss out on this opportunity.
The problem of preschool is not just about access; it is about access to high-quality programs. Quality is the top concern for preschool providers who care about their children and families. Quality is why I chose to be a private provider of New Jersey’s public preschool program. It’s simply the best in the country—and it gives a private provider, like me, confidence that I can deliver the greatest value to the children in my care and the parents who place their trust in me. More of New Jersey’s kids deserve these high-quality programs to ensure they’re receiving a strong start in life. That’s why I support Pre-K Our Way and their mission to implement the already-existing law to expand access to preschool to more communities in New Jersey.
2014 Salem County Teacher of the Year and Pre-K Teacher at Woodstown/Pilesgrove School District
Times in education have changed! Believe it or not, kindergarten now is what first grade used to be and pre-k is now what kindergarten used to be. If a child jumps a step and does not attend pre-k, then there’s a very noticeable gap in kindergarten. The age of three and four is so important for the overall development of the child. This is the time when social skills, problem-solving, fine motor skills and communication skills develop along with academics. If three- and four-year-olds don’t experience those interactions in a supervised setting, then it’s a huge setback in the overall development of the young child. Pre-k definitely has an impact on all children! Being of preschool age is such a critical time in a child’s life. Now is the time to take notice and support the education of the youngest learners!
Cumberland County Resident
I’m a preschool teacher. We teach the children how to write, their letters and their sounds, numbers and much more all in a fun way. We also teach the children problem solving skills and how to get along with others. These skills are often forgotten in elementary. Kindergarten is not what it used to be. It’s so much more aggressive and preschool gives children the skills to be ready for that environment.
Resident of Morris County
I moved here from Florida where they have voluntary pre-k. I was disappointed that New Jersey didn’t have a similar program. Children of my Florida friend’s were using iPads in class and coming home with projects. I finally put my daughter into school so she could get her feet wet before kindergarten. I think it’s a great idea for the future success of New Jersey’s children.
Resident of Middlesex County
I’ve been a teacher for nine years and have a 4-year-old who participated in a pre-k program. Education has changed drastically and is only getting more challenging for kids. As a parent and educator, I want my daughter to have the best possible start and positive experience in her early childhood education. Luckily my town offers pre-k on a half-day basis. I do believe pre-k and full day kindergarten should be a priority. As for the program my daughter attended, they structured the pre-k program to foster curiosity and an interest in learning.
I own a home and pay taxes in Monmouth County; my immediate family members own primary homes and pay taxes in Bergen County. We don’t have kids, yet are always amazed at how bright, engaged and ready to learn young kids can be. The children belonging to extended family and friends attend or have attended quality preschools. Why doesn’t every child in every NJ community have that same chance and opportunity?