Governor Corzine’s grand plan to provide all poor three and four-year-old children with publicly funded preschools is colliding with reality. Currently all young children in the 31 urban Abbott districts go to a full-day preschool with the State picking up the tab, and a key component of the D.O.E.’s new funding formula was providing those services to poor children across the state, regardless of place of residence. After all, if the logic against the Abbott designations is sound, then it shouldn’t matter why you live: if you are poor, you get free preschool. So all districts prepared for new programs with the promise of State funding.
Now we’re all cutting back, and Corzine is saying that the State will fund only some of those kids. The New York Times quotes the Governor:
“I think we should get started in those areas where there are heavy concentrations of at-risk kids,” Mr. Corzine said at an appearance in Lodi. “To me, that should be a priority. We know what happens when children start school prepared. They perform better not only at the start but throughout their careers.”
So much for sound logic. The new/old reality is that if you are a poor toddler and live in an Abbott district you will get free preschool. But if you are a poor toddler and live in a non-Abbott district, then you toss a coin. Count on the advocates for maintaining Abbott districts making hay out of the State’s failure to fund all poor kids equally, the heart of the much-debated School Funding Reform Act.