(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Mila Jasey, Tim Eustace, Ralph Caputo and Troy Singleton to explore the establishment of full-day kindergarten statewide in New Jersey was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
"With so many of our school districts already doing full-day kindergarten, we should have plenty of comparative data to determine if it would be beneficial to implement this statewide at every school," said Wagner, a former teacher (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Ultimately, this task force would be charged with undertaking a comprehensive study to determine what's best to help our children succeed in the long-term."
"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."
Wagner noted that right now there are approximately 108 school districts in New Jersey that do not have full-time kindergarten.
The bill (A-3972) approved today would establish an 18-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.
"Countless studies have shown the advantages of full-day kindergarten for both students and teachers," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This task force would bring together representatives from throughout the education community to determine if full-day kindergarten would be advantageous for all children in our state."
"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 of the Senate; one member of the General Assembly; and 15 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, and three members of the public with expertise related to the work of the task force.
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 68-7 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.