Great Learning

City officials unveil early education plan

Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2015
Source: Daily News

MAYOR NUTTER, city officials and early education advocates yesterday unveiled an ambitious plan aimed at making sure all Philadelphia children from birth to age 5 are ready to start school.

The plan, titled "A Running Start Philadelphia," looks at ways to increase the number of high-quality child-care providers and expand opportunities so more families with young children can access them. Officials said the plan is critical to helping the city reduce poverty and build a stronger workforce.

"High-quality early learning is a proven way to help people overcome poverty, which is why we need to make it a part of every child's birthright as a Philadelphian, as a Pennsylvanian and as an American," said Nutter, speaking to a classroom full of parents, advocates and elected officials at a Chinatown preschool.

According to studies last year, only one in four city children had access to formal school-readiness opportunities and only two out of 10 Philadelphia child-care programs were identified as high-quality.

Among the plan's goals is to create a one-stop system for parents and guardians to determine if they are eligible for publicly funded programs, and if they are, easily enroll them; increase public and private funding for capital improvements for early learning centers in low-income neighborhoods; increase average salaries, tuition support and training for early learning teachers and staff; and advocate at the state and local levels for consistent funding for pre-K.

Officials said they have not come up with a total price tag for the initiative, but that it relies on $120 million proposed by Gov. Wolf for pre-K. That money must be approved as part of the budget by state lawmakers.

The plan has full support from both the city's Democratic and Republican nominees for mayor. Jim Kenney, who won the Democratic endorsement, was in attendance for the announcement. Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey was scheduled to attend, but could not for personal reasons.

"The lack of resources being invested by the government, I think, is unfortunate both on the state and on a national level," Kenney said. "Whoever wins this election, there's not going to be any lack of emphasis on pre-K and early childhood learning."

The plan is the latest initiative of "Shared Prosperity Philadelphia," the city's comprehensive anti-poverty plan created in the summer of 2013.

The plan's unveiling comes on the heels of Philadelphia voters overwhelmingly approving a May 19 ballot question calling for the creation of a city Commission on Universal Pre-Kindergarten. A separate public-private organization will be established to coordinate the plan with all stakeholders, including parents, licensed child-care providers and philanthropic organizations.

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