NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey is entering the first phase of expanding education to include Universal Pre-K. It is viewed as critical to leveling the educational playing field and getting kids to start school earlier.
Seven states and many cities including New York already have universal programs.
The plan in New Jersey includes full-day programs for 4-year-olds. It focuses on smaller class sizes with one teacher and aide per class.
Gov. Phil Murphy visited a class of preschoolers at the Betty McElmon Elementary School on Thursday as they learned about colors.
The program in West Long Branch was among 27 school districts to receive funding to establish or expand high-quality preschool programs for kids.
The program started this week with 18 kids starting pre-K as the state expands the program with the hopes of one day having Universal Pre-K.
The program has expanded statewide over the past five years with some $26 million set aside in the state budget to start early preschool programs.
There have been 18,000 students who have joined the early preschool program since Murphy took office.
The state has an additional $14 million in the budget that paves the way for more school districts to being early preschool in January.
"There are countless benefits to providing a high-quality education to every preschool-aged child in our state, including making New Jersey a more affordable place to live for young, working families," said Governor Phil Murphy. "We have made significant strides in our effort to offer universal preschool throughout New Jersey and must continue to seek ways to achieve this critical objective. My administration will consider all possibilities as we move towards this goal and will continue to invest in preschool education so that more New Jersey children can have opportunities to succeed."
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