(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo and Troy Singleton to explore the establishment of full-day kindergarten statewide in New Jersey moved one step closer to final legislative approval after it was approved by the full Senate on Monday.
"We know that the benefits of early education include not only the building blocks of learning but critical socialization skills and the advantages of pre-school attendance are well-documented," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "A comprehensive study of full-day kindergarten is needed to determine how best to insure that all of our state's children reap the benefit of a public school system with uniform standards from the start of their education."
The bill (A-3972) would establish a 21-member task force to study and evaluate issues associated with the establishment and implementation of full-day kindergarten. The task force would be charged with studying issues including, but not limited to:
- review of existing research, studies, and data concerning full-day kindergarten, including studies that examine the long-term academic impact and the social and emotional impact of full-day kindergarten;
- implementation issues associated with full-day kindergarten, including but not limited to, staffing needs, facility space, and class size;
- funding needed for full-day kindergarten, including sources of funding;
- curriculum comparisons between full-day kindergarten and half-day kindergarten;
- opinions and recommendations of parents and elementary school teachers regarding full-day kindergarten; and
- the feasibility of offering full-day kindergarten in school districts statewide.
"A full day of kindergarten instruction has shown to help students not just academically, but socially," said Caputo (D-Essex). "There are already too many achievement gaps that unfairly disadvantage some students. If full-day kindergarten has the potential to create a better foundation for our students, then we should look into it. This is an investment in the future of our children."
"Research shows there are plenty of benefits to full-day kindergarten, including a smoother transition to first-grade and higher academic achievements in later grades," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "These early years are critical for children. It behooves us to look at this data and the advantages of implementing full-day kindergarten throughout the state, especially when some are already enjoying the benefits."
The task force would be comprised of the Commissioner of Education; one member appointed by the Senate President and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, both of whom shall be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; one member appointed by the Assembly Speaker and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly, both of whom shall be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; and 16 members appointed by the Governor, including three superintendents of schools, two elementary school principals, two kindergarten teachers, one member recommended by the New Jersey Education Association, one member recommended by the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, one member recommended by the New Jersey School Boards Association, one member recommended by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, one member recommended by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, one member recommended by the Garden State Coalition of Schools, and three members of the public with expertise related to the work of the task force, at least one of whom shall be a parent.
The task force would be required to issue a final report with its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its organization.
The bill was approved 35-0 by the full Senate. A previous version of the bill was approved by the Assembly in June, but was since amended so it must head back to the Assembly for final approval.