Lawmakers again push for full-day kindergarten statewide in New Jersey

Lawmakers again push for full-day kindergarten statewide in New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. – Full-day kindergarten has become increasingly common in New Jersey public schools, but approximately 42 districts still offer half-day only.  Those schools may soon add full-day kindergarten under a plan sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou Decroce.

BettyLou DeCroce

“This is about filling an educational gap for thousands of children entering elementary school,” said DeCroce (R-Morris).  “Kindergartners with full day instruction do better, especially disadvantaged students.  They have higher grades and test scores when they are older, as well as better attendance and behavior at school.”

The bill (A654), which advanced in the Assembly Education Committee Thursday, would appoint a 22-member task force to study implementing full-day kindergarten throughout the state.

The task-force members would include the commissioner of education, four legislative appointees, and 17 gubernatorial appointees, including superintendents, principals, teachers and representatives recommended by various education groups.  They would review research on full-day kindergarten, study the staffing, space, funding, class size and curriculum needs, and, and consult with parents and teachers.  The task force would be required to issue a report within a year.

The bill was approved by the state Assembly in 2016, but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate.  Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill in 2014.

The only districts required to offer full-day kindergarten are the 31 Abbott districts, which are largely state-funded under court orders requiring more resources for at-risk children. Attendance, however, remains voluntary.

“We really do need to explore implementing this statewide, especially when so many kids are already enrolled in full-day program,” continued DeCroce.  “A good education shouldn’t be dependent on where you live.”

New Jersey is one of five states without mandatory kindergarten.  State law requires children to start attending school when they’re 6 years old, which usually means first grade.  The only districts required to offer a full-day are the 31 Abbott districts.  It is also one of 35 states where attendance remains voluntary.