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Advocates Say Christie’s Proposed Cuts to Preschool Programs Would be Devastating

August 24, 2016
Economics and Finance
David Cruz

At La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark, staff are preparing for the new school year where they expect over 600 kids to enroll in their head start and preschool programs. Executive Director Ray Ocasio knows about Gov. Chris Christie’s so-called Fairness Formula and, like almost every urban-based preschool provider, he doesn’t think much of it.

But the governor says he’s dead serious about turning the state’s school funding formula on its head and that includes no special protections for the Abbott-decision mandated full-day preschool, which has created early childhood education opportunities for thousands of kids across the state, especially in poorer, urban districts like Newark. Ocasio says his programs have already suffered from flat funding from the state for almost six years.

Gloria Jerez runs one of La Casa’s three early childhood centers. She says a cut from the state would be catastrophic to her program. She says without full-day preschool, hundreds of Newark kids would fall even further behind. She says her program will not be able to accommodate the same number of students as it does currently.

But Christie — who has said all along that he considers preschool little more than a babysitting service — says Abbott districts need to sink or swim without what he says is a funding imbalance created by the Supreme Court’s Abbott decision. But advocates point to studies that say kids who have access to preschool do better socially, academically and even physically than kids who don’t.