The Nutter administration on Tuesday laid out an ambitious vision for assuring that all children in Philadelphia benefit from high-quality early learning experiences.
Labeled "A Running Start Philadelphia: For Every Child, Birth to Five," the outline offers guidance on how the city can guarantee the best learning opportunities for its youngest citizens as a way to offset the long-term, systemic poverty in some neighborhoods.
"With this plan, Philadelphia has developed a strategy to support its children and families by building stronger schools to create a more competitive workforce," Nutter said. "High-quality early learning is a proven way to help people overcome poverty, which is why we need to make it part of every child's birthright as Philadelphians, as Pennsylvanians, and as Americans."
It won't be easy or inexpensive, the mayor acknowledged, saying, however, that it costs far more to deal with adults damaged by childhood poverty and a dearth of educational opportunities.
"It is not going to be cheap," he said. "But we have a choice: We can invest in our children, or we can invest in our broken adults."
With Nutter for the announcement, at Children's Village, a day-care center on North Eighth Street in Center City, was James F. Kenney, the Democratic mayoral nominee.
"If I'm successful, God willing, and I sit in the office Mayor Nutter sits in now, we will have a Running Start and make sure all the stuff you are doing will move forward seamlessly," Kenney said to the roomful of advocates for early-childhood learning. He then cited the cost of housing prison inmates: "If you start early and invest early, I don't have to pay for that young man or young woman up on State Road at $40,000 a year."
The plan - which officials described Tuesday in broad strokes rather than nuts-and-bolts details - is an outgrowth of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, a city effort launched two years ago to address persistent poverty.
A Running Start offers goals and strategies for expanding early-learning opportunities in the city and assuring that the services that now exist are of the highest quality.
To that end, it will create a public-private organization to coordinate the efforts of child-care providers, early child-care funders, government agencies, charities and the business community to develop a "shared early learning policy and agenda for advocacy."
Among the plan's goals are assuring that more of the city's existing child-care providers are of the highest quality, child-care workers are well-trained and better compensated, and parents and caregivers can easily determine whether their children are eligible for publicly funded early learning services.
"Time and again, high-quality early-learning programs have demonstrated impressive results in helping families gain a foothold in the middle class," said Eva Gladstein, executive director of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia. "That's why early learning is an essential component of Philadelphia's antipoverty strategy."