New Jersey Kids Count: Preschool Participation Grows
Jun 19, 2008
Last week, The Annie E. Casey Foundation released their annual Kids Count data, which provides a picture of child well-being nationally, by state, and for the 50 largest cities. New Jersey Kids Count data shows both negative and positive trends. One area of concern is that there has been no improvement in the share of NJ s children living in poor or low-income families since 2002.
On a positive note, according to the data, the state s public school students outperform U.S. public school students as a whole. Moreover, the achievement gap between lower-income and upper-income students appears to be narrowing.
Participation in early education increased as well. Overall enrollment in public preschool increased 10 percent between 2003 and 2007, with enrollment in full-day public preschool increasing by 14 percent. NJ s Abbott preschool program was created with the landmark New Jersey Supreme Court ruling Abbott v. Burke, which among other educational interventions, required that all 3- and 4-year-old children in the state s 31 highest-poverty school districts have access to a full-day/full-year, high-quality preschool education in order to overcome inequities in the state s education system.
In January, the NJ School Funding Reform Act of 2008 was signed into law, making significant changes to the state s school funding formula. Opponents contend that in future years, Abbott districts will lose state funds as they are redirected to districts with lower concentrations of poor children. The Education Law Center of New Jersey (attorneys for the Abbott v. Burke case) has asked the NJ Supreme Court to oppose these changes and ensure the continuation of educational interventions targeted to the state s poorest children. The Center credits the Abbott interventions with educational gains in the state and maintains that persistent trends in poverty require the continuation of these services.
While the future of targeted school funding in New Jersey is uncertain, it is quite clear that our lowest-income children in every state can benefit from high-quality preschool that meets the full range of their developmental needs--and the Abbott program is a national model.