The city's Commission on Universal Pre-K issued its final report to the mayor and City Council, this week, with recommendations for how to expand pre-K to three and four-year-olds in the city.
Many of the recommendations will likely be adopted in Mayor Kenney's final pre-K plan given he appointed several of the commission's members, including his own director of pre-K. The report notes that the majority of the group recommends a sugary drink tax to bring in the $60 million a year that Kenney says he needs for the program.
The city has overwhelmingly united around the need for expanded pre-K but there's a battle being waged over the three cent per ounce soda tax to fund it. On Wednesday, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, campaigning in Philadelphia, said she endorses the tax if it would fund early childhood education.
"I'm very supportive of the Mayor's proposal to tax soda to get universal pre-school for kids," she said. "I mean, we need universal pre-school. And if that's a way to do it, that's how we should do it."
Here are some highlights from the report which is available online here.
-The commission recommends a mixed delivery system, meaning the program should include family and community-based pre-K centers in addition to school district based pre-K classrooms, which make up the majority of the "quality" spots in Philadelphia.
-Priority should be given to children in neighborhoods with the highest concentration of poverty and highest risk for poor academic and life outcomes. The commission did not recommend an income cap.
-The city funds 6,500 slots over five years at $8,500 per child. City funded slots would only go to "quality," centers, rated a three or a four on the state Keystone Stars rating system. Centers working to improve, would qualify for some city assistance in getting there.
-The release of funding would be contingent on providers paying their workers appropriate wages, based on suggested salary ranges in the report. Pre-K teachers, a recent report found, are in some cases paid less than janitors and convenience store workers.
-The report also offers ideas on workforce development, including asking the state to allow teachers in the process of getting certified to work in quality classrooms where teachers are needed as the program expands.