What an amazing time for NJ children!

ACNJ Blog

Cecilia Zalkind photo

Cecilia Zalkind ACNJ President & CEO

What an amazing time for NJ children!

What an amazing two weeks for child advocacy – more money for preschool in Governor Murphy’s proposed budget, bills addressing chronic absenteeism as well as access to school breakfast on a fast track in Trenton and a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Abbott preschool. Plus – it’s official! ACNJ is part of the national Think Babies campaign.

In his first budget address last Tuesday, Governor Murphy stressed the importance of high-quality preschool. He affirmed his commitment by proposing an $83 million increase for preschool – $32.7 million for existing preschool programs that have been flat funded for 10 years; $25 million to continue programs in the districts that received funding this year to expand preschool; and another $25 million to expand high-quality preschool to more children. We are finally on a pathway to ensuring that more children in disadvantaged communities can benefit from this life-changing program.

The budget announcement was well-timed! On Wednesday, more than 200 advocates gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the NJ Supreme Court decision that ordered the state to implement “well-planned, high-quality” preschool for all 3 – and 4-year-old children in the 31 school districts that were part of theAbbott v. Burke educational equity case. It was a time to remember how this program was developed and the impact it has had in New Jersey and across the country. Check out ACNJ’s video on what Abbott preschool means to teachers, parents and children: https://youtu.be/kTJH8-okGoU. Fair warning: have your tissues handy!

And in the Legislature, bills are moving in the Senate and Assembly, requiring schools with 70 percent or more students eligible for school breakfast to serve breakfast “after the bell” – the model that has proven to reach the most children. From parents to educators to organizations representing various stakeholders, legislators were impressed by the diverse turnout in support of the bills and said it set a record for support!

Legislation to address chronic absenteeism that passed in both the Senate and Assembly, but was pocket-vetoed by Governor Christie in January, is now on a fast track, too. Bill S-1876 is ready for a vote in the Senate and A-2192 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on March 23, hopefully moving on quickly for a vote in the Assembly.

And it’s official – ACNJ is a partner in ZERO TO THREE’s national Think Babies campaign, advocating for investments in the most critical time of a child’s life, birth to 3. Already a partner in Right from the Start NJ, it was only fitting that ACNJ align its efforts with Think Babies to advance an advocacy agenda for young children, starting with more access to quality child care for babies. Join the action and participate in our firstThink Babies event: Strolling Thunder New Jersey. On May 21, we will be bringing families with young children and advocates to Trenton to show, not just tell, state leaders that it is time to Think Babies.

Click to here to register for Strolling Thunder New Jersey.

All of these initiatives have something in common: they are all important to school success. Kids can’t learn if they are not in school. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast helps kids pay attention in class. And high-quality preschool is the foundation for 3rd grade reading, a critical factor in future school success.

Stay tuned as we continue to update you on the progress.

Sincerely,

Cecilia Zalkind
President & CEO

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