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Preschool enrollment rebounds after pandemic, Rutgers study shows


Enrollment in preschool nationwide fell sharply during the pandemic, but has rebounded. A recent report from Rutgers’ National Institute for Early Education Research shows a record percentage of young children enrolled in preschool in 2023 and state spending on preschool hit an all-time high — but not in New York State.

“New York — the program is not well funded,” said Steven Barnett, one of the authors of the report. “Funding per child definitely fell in this last year in New York, it’s about $6600 per child, which is not nearly enough. By contrast New Jersey spent $16,000 per child,” he said.

He pointed out that of course New Jersey doesn’t serve nearly as many children. Pandemic aid in New Jersey did not go toward preschool. Those programs are funded by the state. Governor Murphy’s most recent budget for fiscal 2025 added $124 million in aid for preschool.

Barnett said there was some good news about New York.

“New York has had a commitment to universal Pre-K that has wavered over the years, sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down, but in this most recent year New York hit an all-time high for enrollment of 4-year olds at 56%,” said Barnett.

He said New Jersey’s strength was in spending. “It is not moving as fast on enrollment as New York has but it’s put more money behind each child and the quality matters, so you could say when you compare the two states that New Jersey is putting quality first,” he said.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.