Gov. Phil Murphy is trumpeting his plan to increase funding for existing and new preschool programs by $68 million in his proposed 2020 state budget.

And to pay for it, he wants to raise the tax on millionaires.

During a visit to the Acelero Learning Center in North Brunswick on Thursday, Murphy also announced the creation of the Division of Early Childhood Education within the Department of Education.

The governor said a strong pre-K program is essential to maximize opportunities for our youngest students to reach their full potential, and this Division will help to accomplish that.

He pointed out the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs has estimated “that for every dollar we invest in a child at the very beginning of their educational life, we recoup up to $9 on overall return as they grow.”

Murphy went on to say “every dollar we invest in pre-K helps make New Jersey a more affordable place for our diverse middle class and working families, investments in our youngest learners are investments in the middle class.”

Murphy added that we now know increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before they enter first grade is the single highest correlate with later success.

The Gov. checks out a pre-K building project. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ
The Gov. checks out a pre-K building project. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

“Investing in pre-K is how we keep New Jersey a national leader in education," he said.

The director of the new Division of Early Childhood Education will be Cary Booker, who has served as a senior education policy advisor in the Governor’s Office. Booker's brother is U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.

Cary Booker said pre-K is being expanded across New Jersey and they want to make sure “the existing districts are doing the high-quality work that they’ve been doing, and we continue to support the districts that are expanding.”

He explained the Division will focus primarily on 3- and 4-year-olds, although there is increasing evidence that shows education for 1- and 2-year-old toddlers is also important.

Murphy also plugged his plan to increase taxes for those making at least $1 million a year.

“Expanding access to programs like pre-school through a true millionaire’s tax is one commonsense way to level the playing field and set these children up for success.”

State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has repeatedly stated he will not support a millionaire’s tax until and unless his Path to Progress report , which calls for restructuring state spending, is addressed by the administration.

Early childhood had previously been its own division within the Department of Education with its own assistant commissioner. But in 2011, it was placed under the Division of Academics and Performance.

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