CLIFTON, N.J. — A group of state lawmakers on Tuesday proposed using $110 million from New Jersey's property tax relief fund to pay for all-day preschool programs.
"New Jersey has the highest quality public pre-K in the nation," Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey said during a news conference at Clifton's No. 17 School to announce the introduction of a bill to expand preschool throughout the state. "The problem is not every child in New Jersey has access to that.
"Today we hope to be kicking off an effort to change that."
Fewer than 40 districts in New Jersey offer public preschool programs, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said.
"Our children are our future, and we need to do a lot better," he said. "This is something that is essential."
Clifton School No. 17, opened last year, was a natural choice for Tuesday morning's news conference, the lawmakers said.
"Clifton is a cross-section of Americana," Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin said. "We have every different group calling Clifton home."
Clifton parents Haleemah Jamhour and Gina Suarez said their children greatly benefitted from preschool.
"My son's education has improved tremendously over the past five months compared to a year and a half in daycare," Suarez said. "He's always excited when he comes home to talk about how his day went at school."
Jamhour said her son's speech improved. He only spoke a few words before, but now she "can't get him to stop speaking."
Preschool can improve health for children as well, said Dr. Jeanne Craft, a pediatrician. They often learn healthy habits such as proper nutrition, brushing their teeth and an appreciation for physical activity.
Clifton teacher Melody Bioletti showcased the fun side of preschool as her class sang for the audience, including their ABCs, "Wheels on the Bus," and "Happy and You Know It."
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