Gov. Phil Murphy and Acting Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer recently announced the availability of $33 million in federal grant funding to support crucial preschool facilities projects in New Jersey school districts.

“We’ve been committed to bringing universal preschool to as many communities as possible, and an important element of our initiative is providing funding for new and expanded preschool facilities,” Murphy said. “High-quality preschool is an investment that will help students for years to come, both in their formative years and throughout their academic careers. Increased access to early education opportunities benefits children and their families, building upon our work to make New Jersey the best place to raise a family and educate a child.”

“Many communities that want to establish high-quality preschool programs have faced the challenge of securing adequate facilities to house those programs,” Dehmer said. “This first-of-its-kind funding for New Jersey school districts helps overcome those barriers and brings us one step closer to realizing our goal of universal preschool for all children.”

The $33 million is made available through the second round of Universal Preschool Facilities Expansion Grants funding. The first round, announced in March 2023, marked the first time that preschool facility expansion grants were available to help build, expand and renovate preschool facilities in regular operating districts in New Jersey.

A total of $120 million for the grants was made available through an allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund dollars in the fiscal year 2023 state budget. To date, $86.9 million of that amount has been allocated to a total of 35 projects in 27 school districts, creating over 3,500 preschool seats. As one component of New Jersey’s vital mixed-delivery approach to universal preschool, district facility improvements like these are designed to complement and enhance other state efforts bolstering district, licensed childcare provider and Head Start capacity to provide high-quality preschool services to additional students.


Under the Preschool Facilities Expansion program, regular operating districts are eligible to receive at a minimum 40% of approved eligible project costs. The funding percentage for a grant is based upon district aid percentage multiplied by the eligible project costs established by NJDOE. Districts must be able to demonstrate local matching funds for the balance of the project costs.

Approvable projects would be limited to those that expand a current educational facility (adding preschool classrooms/seats) and renovations of existing facilities with limitations. Specifically, these will only be allowed if the district can demonstrate sufficient capacity for other grades and that the renovation would result in a net increase in available preschool seats.

Project Prioritization

For preschool expansion projects to be considered for grant funding, the proposed scope of work must be 100% eligible for state support and be included in one of the priorities listed below. Once a project has been determined by the NJDOE to be 100% eligible in scope, it will be categorized in one of the listed project areas. If the proposed scope of work is applicable to more than one project area, the project will be placed in the lower sub-ranking priority.

Projects that would require a referendum to raise the local share will not be considered at this time. For districts seeking projects that would require a local referendum, debt service aid is available to provide state support for projects through the NJDOE.

Project Priority List
  1. Increase in Number of Available Preschool Seats: First priority will be given to projects that demonstrate the districts’ ability to increase the number of available preschool seats by adding at least 10% of the district’s landscape. Projects will be ranked within this priority category by percentage of increase compared to other applications. Projects include, but are not limited to, construction of additional preschool classrooms in existing school buildings.
  1. Facility Enhancements: Projects in this priority level include but are not limited to rehabilitation of existing preschool classrooms to meet square footage requirements tiered at 950 square feet, 750 square feet and 700 square feet – and construction or rehabilitation of toilet rooms in classrooms.
  1. Transition to Full-Day Programs: Projects that support the expansion of half-day programs in existing ECPA/ELLI districts to full-day programs meeting the NJDOE’s facility requirements.
  2. New Preschool Programs: Projects that include expansion of existing school buildings or rehabilitation of existing classrooms that would ultimately house new preschool programs (guaranteeing future seats).
Application Timeline

The preschool expansion projects open application period is May 1, 2024, to June 3, 2024. All approved projects must be completed no later than Aug. 31, 2026.

A complete project application must be received by the NJDOE via the Electronic Web Enabled Grants system by 5 p.m. on June 3, 2024, to be considered for grant funding. It is recommended that districts submit their application prior to this deadline. Please refer to the Office of School Facilities Projects webpage for more information on the submission process, including the project application and transmittal requirements.