A new report our from the New America Foundation depicts New Jersey’s preschool initiatives as innovative and successful, particularly because of our “diverse delivery system” that combines “community providers while also maintaining a strong role for school districts.” Over many years, N.J. has developed a model that combines traditional public schools, community-based child care centers, and Head Start programs that deliver high-quality full-day preschool services to primarily low-income children. The report extols the collaboration between public and non-public, with 2/3 of Abbott schoolchildren now attending programs in non-public settings. There was initially concern about whether the non-publics could deliver the rigorous, research-based programming. However,
Although community-based providers [in N.J.] once trailed public school classrooms on quality indicators, community-based classrooms now achieve quality comparable to – and in some cases better than – that in public school settings.
How is this “diverse delivery model” different than a K-12 school system that combines traditional public schools and charter schools? (Full disclosure: this is part of our quest to uncover the antipathy of some educators towards charters. We’re discounting fear of competition and union pressure as unseemly.) All preschools in the system are paid for with public funds. All preschools comply with state regulations regarding rigor of instruction and core content standards. They exist together, public and non-public, collaborative and committed to kids.
The report has a few recommendations. One is that the state provide facilities funding to the non-public preschools (echoing recent recommendations, not to mention Race To The Top gestalt, that N.J. offer facilities funding to charters.) Another recommendation takes this diverse delivery system a step further: since some districts in N.J. have only half-day kindergarten, why not extend the model to include full-day kindergartens too? Some kids go to kindergarten in public school. Some kids go to kindergarten in non-public school. What a concept. How about first grade?