Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his annual State of the State address at the Statehouse in Trenton on Jan. 9, highlighting his commitment to education throughout his speech.

New Jersey must become a more affordable place for everyone to live, he said.

“And, in the spirit of lifting the financial burdens weighing on our families, let us redouble our commitment to bringing universal pre-K to all of New Jersey,” he said. “To ensure that every family – regardless of their economic status – can afford to send their child to a safe, enriching environment during the day.”

He noted that so far, the state has helped more than 14,000 children enroll in a pre-K program. “And we are just getting started,” he said.

Another topic he touched on was the teacher shortage.

The governor noted that the student teacher scholarships have already provided financial support to more than 700 educators getting started in their careers. “In the years to come, we hope to support many more aspiring educators,” he said.

He called on the Legislature to send to his desk a voting rights bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local school board elections.

“This is a proposal inspired by two, bright young leaders here today: Anjali Krishnamurti and Yenjay Hu, the co-founders of VOTE16NJ,” he said. He also thanked Sen. Brian Stack for his leadership on the issue.

“I know to some, this proposal may sound unconventional, he said. “But voting is a lifelong habit. And studies show that, if a person votes in one election – they are more likely to turn out in the next election.” He added, “So, encouraging our young neighbors to engage with democracy, is really about encouraging them to become lifelong voters.”

The governor said that if New Jersey wants to maintain its reputation of having the best public education system in the country, it must listen to students, educators, and parents – and put their feedback into practice.

“So, this year, with their insights in mind, I hope to work with educators and legislators to improve literacy rates among our children,” he said. “We will be introducing new initiatives to teach our kids the fundamentals of reading – like sounding out letters and combining them into words.”

He continued, “It is simple: an emphasis on phonics in reading instruction is essential to the lifelong success of our children. And it is essential to making New Jersey the best place to raise a child.

Increasing literacy rates, he said, will make New Jersey better, he said.

You can read a full transcript of his remarks here.