Mayor’s commission pitches Philadelphia City Council on universal pre-K

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Universal Pre-K Commission Co-chair Sharon Easterling listens to testimony Monday during a public hearing at City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Universal Pre-K Commission Co-chair Sharon Easterling listens to testimony Monday during a public hearing at City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

As Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney pushes for universal pre-K, his commission on the subject is trying to enlist support in City Council.

Kate Shaw of the group Research for Action testified before City Council the facts are very clear about pre-K.

“An extensive body of research in education, developmental psychology, neuroscience, medicine, economics shows that quality early childhood education programs produce better education, health economic and social outcomes for children families and the nation,” she said.

Fatima Rogers, principal at Charles W Henry Elementary School in West Mount Airy,  told Council students with a good pre-school education are better prepared when they arrive at her doorstep.

“The students who attend pre-kindergarten have an easier transition to kindergarten. The students are less stressed and don’t typically exhibit separation anxiety causing them to be sent to the counselor or other staff,” she said.

Jerry Jordan who heads up the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said the sticking point is pre-K requires a steady stream of dedicated funding.

“To maintain any sort of quality education program there must be adequate and sustainable funding. The commission’s report recommends perusing a funding mix that blends state Local private and federal sources.”

Allison Acevedo director of education at United Way said the process will not happen overnight — nor will it be cheap. In the group’s “Success by Six” program, they help improve pre-school centers to they score better on quality ratings. “It costs $30,000 for one childcare center for 18 months,” she said.

Studies also show a higher graduation rate and decreased crime and delinquency rates among kids who have attended pre-K.

The Kenney administration is trying to enlist private donations to help Philadelphia afford universal pre-K and funding is still one of the biggest question marks for the initiative.

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