Mayor Nutter, his likely successor Jim Kenney, and early learning advocates launched an ambitious plan Tuesday aimed at making sure all kids from birth to age 5 have access to high-quality learning opportunities.
The plan, titled A Running Start, is the latest initiative of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, the city's comprehensive plan to reduce poverty. By increasing access to high-quality early learning, officials said, the city can build a stronger workforce and reduce the cost for prisons and other social services.
"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," Nutter while joined by dozens packed inside a classroom at a Chinatown preschool.
Among the plan's goals: 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.
The plan has support from both the city's Democratic and Republican nominees for mayor. Kenney, who won the Democratic nod, was among those in attendance for the announcement. Republican candidate Melissa Murray 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."
Officials could not provide a total price tag for the initiative, but said that it relies on $120 million proposed this year by Gov. Tom Wolf for pre-K. That funding must be approved by the General Assembly.
The launch comes on the heels of city voters overwhelmingly approving a May 19 ballot question calling for the creation of a city Commission on universal pre-Kindergarten.