As my two boys get ready to for their first day of school today, I thought that the following piece written by Gov. Corzine would be of interest to some of you.
Next to fixing the economy, nothing has been more important to me during my four years in office than educating our children. As we faced a global recession in a year of declining revenues, our funding for education increased because I believe we have an obligation to provide adequate funding for public education.
The reason is simple. Children only get one shot at being a child — one chance at a quality education.
An investment in education is an investment in the economic well-being of New Jersey. Companies come to New Jersey or remain in the state if there is a well-educated workforce that can meet the company’s needs. For years, this state has had a reputation for having such a workforce. By spending wisely on education, that tradition will continue.
That is why I have refused to cut state aid to education. Across the board, communities in this state saw their state education aid go up or remain level this year — a remarkable accomplishment given the economic downturn the state faced.
Since I became Governor, state aid to education has gone up $1.8 billion including federal funds. From preschoolers to college students, we have worked to protect children and to ensure we are continuing to deliver a world class education.
Let’s talk about preschool. Chris Christie has called it government sponsored “babysitting.” His statements suggest he has not paid attention to the research. The evidence shows that disadvantage kids often arrive at school two or three years behind their peers because they have not been exposed to the kind of early learning experiences that enrich a child’s life and prepare him or her for kindergarten. We are seeking to reverse that trend by providing preschool to all at-risk students and by expanding full day kindergarten. When school starts this September, more than 51,000 children will be enrolled in preschool statewide. No other state in the nation has invested more in preschool than we have here in New Jersey.
Five years into this effort, it is clear we are laying a foundation that will give these children a chance to excel as they continue in school. Just this year, a new study on the effects of preschool found that children who attended high-quality preschool programs outperformed their peers in first and second grades. In short, our efforts are paying off.
In the world in which we live today, we cannot wait until children are 5 years old to begin to expose them to learning. If we are going to compete in the global economy, children have to start early. So even though we faced tremendous stress on our budget, I was committed to funding preschool in communities where it has already started. In fact, we increased funding for preschool by almost $50 million, largely in the former Abbott districts. And, we are now spending nearly $600 million on preschool in New Jersey.
We are able to achieve some of this because of support from the federal government. Like Governor Sarah Palin and other Republicans, Chris Christie would have turned down billions in federal educational funds. That’s just plain irresponsible.