Study after study shows that low-income children enter kindergarten lacking the skills necessary to achieve school success. High-quality preschool helps all children, particularly those from low-income families, arrive at school with the skills necessary to be ready to learn. That readiness lays the foundation for future school success. For 14 years, New Jersey's nationally recognized preschools have helped level the playing field for those children lucky enough to attend.
Unfortunately, these successful preschools are available to just a fraction of the young children who could benefit from them, simply because of a lack of funding. Many of these children live in the Upper Deerfield School District.
With such a high percentage of low-income children, all Upper Deerfield preschoolers would be eligible for a full-day, high-quality preschool, if the state met the preschool-expansion mandate in the 2008 school-funding law. Upper Deerfield does have preschool, but it is only half-day and only available to fewer than half of the eligible children. This leaves many children and their families with few alternatives.
As a result, on that first day of school, many Upper Deerfield kindergartners enter school with two strikes against them.
A recent federal proposal could change that. The proposal would expand preschool to children in New Jersey and across the nation and bring tens of millions of dollars into the state. This funding would provide young children -including many in the Upper Deerfield School District - with access to quality preschool, which is critical to their educational success.
If both our state and nation are committed to closing the pervasive academic achievement gap between poor children and their more affluent peers, we must provide quality preschool to these young learners. In Upper Deerfield, other New Jersey towns, and in communities throughout our country, our children can wait no longer.
Upper Deerfield Township