Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assembly speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin announced legislation to expand full-day preschool statewide Tuesday at a school in Clifton February 9.
The bi-partisan bill (A-2572 (Jasey/DeCroce/Diegnan) proposes to expand publicly-funded preschool to more than 100 more districts where at least 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Only 35 districts offer the service currently, according to the bill’s sponsors.
Under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, districts with a high concentration of low-income students were required to offer full-day preschool, but the recession left the state unable to fund the mandate.
The bill — sponsored by Jasey, Prieto, three other Democrats and Republican BettyLou DeCroce — would appropriate $110 million from the Property Tax Relief Fund to help pay for the expansions.
With the economy picking up, supporters of universal preschool said it’s time to make early childhood education a priority, though the legislators acknowledged they will need to find more money and that it will be a long road to get other lawmakers on board.
Prieto called the effort to expand preschool access a building block in his recently announced anti-poverty initiative.