Gov. Phil Murphy’s promise this morning to establish a universal preschool in New Jersey quickly became a political bludgeon, with the Democratic State Committee (NJDSC) issuing a statement denouncing Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli for an op-ed that he wrote in 2018.
“We can’t afford, and we don’t need to ‘fully fund pre-K’,” Ciattarelli wrote in the Nj.com editorial focusing on spending on Murphy’s campaign pledges. “[W]We just need means testing and a more equitable distribution of current funding.
In their statement, Democrats chose to interpret the quote as a preemptive attack on Murphy’s Universal Pre-K proposal – delivered almost four years before the proposal was unveiled.
“Jack Ciattarelli is so out of touch that he doesn’t want to invest in our most important asset – our children,” said Saily Avelenda, executive director of the NJDSC. “This is just another example of Congressman Ciattarelli playing with his extreme Republican base by refusing to support Governor Murphy’s pledge to provide a universal preschool.”
In response to the attack, Ciattarelli’s campaign spokeswoman Stami Williams said Ciattarelli supported the expansion of the state’s preschool system, but disagreed that the system is fully managed by the State.
“Jack has always been a fan of the pre-K expanded,” Williams said. “He believes universal pre-kindergarten is best delivered directly by for-profit or non-profit community childcare providers approved by the Ministry of Children and Families, or in public-private partnership with the education community. “
Ciattarelli himself expanded on his proposal at a press conference earlier today, saying that while Murphy’s proposal was not ‘dead on arrival’, it relied too much on the existing public school system. .
“We would just do [Pre-K expansion] in a conservative and common sense manner, ”Ciattarelli said of his future administration. “I’m all for creating a voucher system, for which people would be eligible based on their income level. They would take that voucher and send their child to private kindergarten, instead of making it part of our public school system.