A Discussion on the Impact of Pre-K Programs on Urban Communities

featured speakersLast week, The Guarini Institute in collaboration with the Caulfield School of Education hosted Ora Welch, President & CEO, HOPES; Dr. Marcia Lyles, Superintendent, Jersey City Public Schools; Sam Crane, Coordinator, Pre-K Our Way to participate on a panel about the expansion of Pre-k programs in the state of New Jersey. The panel was moderated by Joseph Doria, Ed.D., Dean of the Caulfield School of Education and Leila Sadeghi, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Guarini Institute

In 31 Abbott districts, Pre-K programs were implemented by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1998 as a result of a finance equity battle. Recent proposals have called for expanding investment in preschool programs- the first time since the late 2000s. The expansion bill S.997 calls for extending funding to $103 million for the two year program to an additional seventeen districts beyond the Abbott districts.

Dr. Lyles said that the Pre-K programs, also known as Head Start programs, were originally intended to close the poverty gap in urban communities.

“I think a commitment to a continuous improvement [in Jersey City] is a critical part. That’s certainly a principal in our early childhood program as well,” said Lyles.

The panel mentioned that the program’s success was attracting several observers including education officials from Norway.

“What’s so compelling is that [Head Start] was really directed to address the inequities of children living in poverty and children of color. It was directed to closing that gap and that is what we have to remember that we have to pay particular attention to that,” Lyles recalled.

The panel further discussed President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty and whether or not it is possible to truly be eliminated.

“Poverty is not going to get off the map just because we wish it away. We’re going to have to find ways to bring our children along and make sure they get the education they need and that they get a job once they get out of school or stay in school long enough to get an education because we have such a high dropout rate,” said Ora Welch.