Bayonne makes room for 585 pre-k students

School district receives $6.7 million from DOE

Bayonne's all-day pre-k program increased capacity by a factor of nine - from 65 to 585.
Bayonne's all-day pre-k program increased capacity by a factor of nine - from 65 to 585.

The Bayonne school district will soon be able to accommodate 585 pre-k students after it received more than $6.7 million from the NJ Department of Education to expand its full-day pre-k program in September of 2019. The district received $3.4 million last year, and a $770,982 grant the year prior to expand full-day pre-k to 65 spots.

Families previously entered their kids into pre-k through a lottery system. The likelihood of getting one of the 65 spots was slim. Now, the program will likely cover every pre-k-aged child in Bayonne. Currently, state-certified pre-k teachers teach classes in five schools. Now, all of Bayonne’s 11 elementary schools will have a pre-k classroom.

“Children who go through pre-k have a leg up on those students who do not.” — Dr. Michael A. Wanko

Increasing access

Politicians and public education reformers across the state have been advocating for universal pre-k for years. Former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, did not adequately fund public education, let alone pre-k. Now, Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has made early childhood education a priority, expanding pre-k programs across the state.

Bayonne Board of Education Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael A. Wanko is an ardent proponent of expanded pre-k.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be in early childhood education for our four-year-olds. The sooner they get into school, the more successful they will be going through the school system,” he told the Bayonne Community News. “Now we have this substantial amount of money allowing us to basically hit the entire universe of our four-year-olds in Bayonne. It’s huge, and it’s a boon for the city.”

Wanko and other educators often cite studies as evidence of pre-k’s advantages. One popular study by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University found that students who attended pre-k in Abbott districts were, on average, three-quarters of an academic year ahead of their peers, repeated grades less often, and were less likely to be in a special education program. With New Jersey having one of the largest achievement gaps in the country, pre-k advocates are acting with increasing urgency.

“This is about the future of Bayonne.” — Nicholas Chiaravalloti

“Bringing Pre-K for all to Bayonne has been a major goal of mine since joining the Assembly in 2015,” said Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, who represents Bayonne and parts of Jersey City. “I am very thankful to Governor Murphy and Commissioner Repollet for their commitment to public education. This is about the future of Bayonne. Extended-day preschool has dramatic and lasting effects when it is high quality. I congratulate the staff and leadership at the board for responding to the challenge and preparing a superior application.”

“This is a potential game changer for the City of Bayonne,” said Mayor James Davis in a press release. “I commend Governor Murphy and Commissioner Repollet for their vision in making funding public education a priority in New Jersey. In the past two years, Bayonne has seen significant increases in funding for our schools. Our dedicated team in Trenton, led by Senator Cunningham, Assemblyman Chiaravalloti and Assemblywoman McKnight, have delivered for Bayonne. On this issue, I know how passionate Nicholas was in assuring that Bayonne be able to provide full-day pre-k in 2019-2020.”

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