Kenney releases plan to raise $105M for schools, bolster pre-K offerings citywide

 Jim Kenney speaks about his education-policy paper while retired teacher  Rachelle Nocito looks on. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Jim Kenney speaks about his education-policy paper while retired teacher Rachelle Nocito looks on. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With a retired teacher at his side Monday in a University City pre-K, mayoral candidate Jim Kenney released an education-policy paper that aims to raise $105 million and fully fund early childhood education  “for three- and four-year old Philadelphians in need.”

The plan (PDF) would raise money “by instituting zero-based budgeting, creating a reverse auctioning system [for city contract bids], selling marketable commercial tax liens, and revising the land value to collect a fairer share of taxes from abated properties.”

“This is the beginning of a generational change our city sorely needs,” said Kenney, sitting in front of a wooden toyhouse, five tricycles, two toy lawnmowers and a mini trampoline inside Philadelphia Cathedral Early Learning Center. “It would be the hallmark of my administration.”

Kenney was introduced at the afternoon event by retired teacher Rachelle Nocito, who said the candidate “clearly feels a personal commitment to our children in public schools.”

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Savings specifics

Per the policy paper, Kenney would aim to provide an additional $50 million in the first year of his term without cutting city services “beyond the efficiencies and program redundancies found through budgeting and procurement reforms.”

The campaign said those funds would come from “zero based budgeting and reverse auctioning system in the first fiscal year of his term,” which they estimate would rise to $90 million in the second fiscal year when zero-based budgeting is fully utilized.

An additional $40 million would represent a one-time boost from “selling marketable commercial tax liens” with $15 million more arriving via “adjusting the land value of abated properties.”

Kenney also noted the importance of creating “community schools,” the possibility of turning the Community College of Philadelphia into a four-year institiution in the face of rising educational costs, how abolishing the School Reform Commission would not necessarily result in more funding from the commonwealth and how “teachers are not the cause of educational dysfunction in the city or country.”

He’s not alone

Kenney is not the first candidate in the mayoral field to release an education-policy paper or statement.

Also having done so are Nelson Diaz, Doug Oliver and Tony Williams.

Quickly reacting to Kenney’s proposal was Diaz spokesman Barry Caro, who zeroed in on the $90 million figure.

“Half [of] his enumerated hard numbers basically amount to that old chestnut ‘reduce waste, fraud and abuse.’ We dismissed that as too amorphous to count on in our own proposal,” Caro said. “Moreover, $105 million — his quoted figure — doesn’t seem to cover the current hole in the budget, much less Kenney’s proposals for additional spending.”

Lynne Abraham will release her policy paper sometime this week, her campaign told NinetyNine on Monday afternoon.

For his part, Milton Street has said that he “would put a moratorium on charter schools” and is against vouchers.

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