Tahesha Way, serving as acting governor on Oct. 18, joined the New Jersey Department of Education and other state officials at the Estelle V. Malberg Early Childhood Center to announce the 26 school districts that have received Preschool Expansion Aid to establish or expand access to high-quality preschool programs in the 2023-2024 school year. The 26 districts are receiving a total of $24,903,130 in state funding.

The latest round of funding will add over 1,715 seats to New Jersey’s expanding preschool system, significantly bolstering access to high-quality preschool programs and building on efforts to provide every three- and four-year-old child in New Jersey with access to free, full-day pre-K.

“Providing children with access to preschool programs not only sets our students up for success, but also yields both short- and long-term economic benefits for their families and communities,” Way said. “By investing in preschool education, we are investing in our youth and in the future prosperity of New Jersey.”

“Our vision is to create an educational landscape where every child, regardless of their background, can thrive from the very beginning of their academic journey. This investment not only expands preschool seats but also opens doors to greater educational and life opportunities for our state’s future leaders,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education.

The 2023-2024 school year ushers in an important shift in how state funds for preschool are allocated. Last year the application process was available only to districts with 10% or more of student enrollment from low-income families; this year marks the first time any school district has been able to apply for state preschool-expansion funding. Applications for PEA are reviewed and scored by a panel at the NJDOE.

The latest grant awardees demonstrated to the NJDOE their capacity to provide a high-quality preschool program, which is defined by a full-day program that has a certificated teacher, an aide, and small classes that are inclusive of children with special needs. The 26 new high-quality preschool programs will start by January 2024.

The fiscal year 2024 state budget included an increase of nearly $110 million in preschool funding compared to the prior year, for a total of $1.1 billion. The increased funding supports prior preschool expansion districts, and includes $40 million to expand high-quality, full-day programs into new districts while also supporting other preschool expansion needs.

The following is a list of the 26 school districts benefiting from PEA funding for preschool programs, and their awards:

CamdenCherry Hill$3,417,615
CamdenMagnolia *$291,060
Cape MayWest Cape May$166,752
GloucesterElk Township *$1,100,962
HunterdonClinton Glen Gardner$607,248
HunterdonClinton Township$966,030
HunterdonEast Amwell$520,170
HunterdonFranklin Township$356,688
MiddlesexHighland Park *$559,308
MorrisMine Hill$850,906
OceanLacey Township$3,323,279
WarrenWashington Township$227,792

* Denotes districts that previously operated preschool programs via state Early Childhood Program Aid (ECPA) and the Early Launch to Learning Initiative funding. The 2023-2024 State preschool aid will allow them to expand to a high-quality preschool program. 

Get more details in the full news release.