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United Way Fights For Quality, Affordable Preschool -- And Wins

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

September 2019

It’s been a decade-long battle, but thanks to $7.7 million in new state funding, we can now claim a partial victory, with the support and expansion of public preschool in 14 school districts across northern New Jersey.

A tireless foot soldier in this campaign, United Way of Northern New Jersey stayed the course, fighting for local school districts with high percentages of families who are in poverty or ALICE – to benefit. For too long, many of these households couldn’t afford the high price tag of quality preschool at a cost of over $1,000 a month.

Advocacy pays off

As far back as 2005, United Way marshalled its resources to support partner preschools, held countless meetings, rallied volunteers, and testified at hearings in concert with allies across the state. United Way continues to make the case for significant financial need in suburban and rural communities, despite perceptions of wealth.

“Thanks go to the United Way of Northern New Jersey for their steadfast support and advocacy of preschool education in the entire region,” said Newton Superintendent of Schools G. Kennedy Greene, Ed.D.

Newton was one of the 14 local preschool success stories, along with Belvidere, Dover, Franklin Township, and Morristown. In total, preschool seats have been added for 625 students in our five-county footprint of Morris, Somerset, Suburban Essex, Sussex, and Warren counties.

In addition to successfully advocating for additional state funding, United Way worked behind the scenes to make sure communities were ready when the funding was realized.

Years in the making

That preparation began with United Way having the foresight to provide incentives for partner centers to join the state’s child care quality rating program, called Grow NJ Kids. United Way committed to helping partner centers achieve a minimum three-star quality rating in the state with financial and technical support.

Only those enrolled in Grow NJ Kids can partner with school districts to provide public preschool. Otherwise, they could not receive state preschool funding.

“United Way had the insight and vision to push preschools like ours to get ready for the future. Well, the future has arrived and we are so grateful to United Way,” said Bruce Kahn, DC, board president of Dover Child Care Center, now partnering with the Dover school district and receiving new state funding.

The fight continues to secure additional funds for more families in need.

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