Last month, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill (A-3972/S-2763) that would have created a 17-member task force to study full-day kindergarten in New Jersey. The bill passed the Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support -- in fact, the bill's sponsors in both chambers represented both political parties.
The bill charged the task force with evaluating full-day kindergarten, including existing research and data and the opinions of parents and elementary school teachers about the program, and issuing a report on their findings and recommendations to the governor.
Over 20 percent of New Jersey school districts do not offer full-day kindergarten, despite compelling evidence that the program produces long-term educational gains with children attending full-day programs performing better than students in half-day programs. Ten other states, as well as the District of Columbia, provide full-day kindergarten to all children.
NJEA supported the bill, because research demonstrates that money spent on high-quality early childhood learning has long-term academic, economic, and social benefits that are realized well into adulthood. Full-day kindergarten contributes to increased school readiness and helps to narrow the achievement gap between groups of students. A task force could have addressed the costs, staffing issues, and questions regarding facilities associated with a move to full-day kindergarten.