In a Children’s Village classroom packed to the hilt with likeminded adults, Mayor Michael Nutter, Executive Director Eva Gladstein and mayoral candidate Jim Kenney joined with early-education leaders to unveil the city’s “A Running Start Philadelphia: For Every Child, Birth to Five” plan.
The nascent, citywide early-learning plan aims to lay “the foundation for a coherent system to provide high-quality early learning for all children from birth to age five” via a public/private partnership.
It calls on the mayor and city council to appoint a 17-member commission which will present the city’s mayor with an “implementation plan and funding proposals” for consideration by April 2016, four months after Nutter’s successor takes office.
With a yet-determined pricetag, the commission would reconvene every year until its plan gets City Council approval.
“It does come with a cost. We’ve started to do that work but don’t have that number yet,” said Gladstein near the end of the hour-long event. “It’s not going to be cheap.”
Nutter then approached the microphone and noted that “the alternative costs more,” returning to a message of how it costs less to educate children than incarcerate adults.
“We have some critical decisions to make as a city, not just government,” he said of working on a plan that’s part of the anti-poverty Shared Prosperity Philadelphia initiative.
To that end, however, Nutter noted that despite the fact that the mayoral candidates will likely debate a plethora of issues, “one thing that won’t be subject to debate is that our children need a running start” in life.
“High-quality early learning is a proven way to help people overcome poverty,” said Nutter, “which is why we need to make it a part of every child’s birthright as Philadelphians, as Pennsylvanians and as Americans.”
As presented by Gladstein and Children’s Village Executive Director Mary Graham, the group which worked to create the plan pinpointed five goals:
Increase access to high quality learning opportunities,
Expand that supply,
Strengthen the workforce though professional development and increased compensation for workers,
Align systems serving children from birth to age eight, and
Support infrastructure and funding to sustain the effort.
The announcement dovetails with the results of a May 19 ballot question in which voters overwhelmingly supported an independent “Commission on Universal Pre-Kindergarten.”
For his part, Kenney said that “whoever is elected [mayor in November], there won’t be a lack of emphasis on pre-K learning,” basing that on interactions he’s had with his Republican opponent.
Kenney then noted that despite proposing an education-funding plan during the mayoral primary, he harbors no “pride of ownership” on good ideas and sees this effort as giving the next mayor’s “administration a running start,” too.
Bailey responded for a request comment on the launch event. Here’s what she sent to NewsWorks on Tuesday night:
The first day of kindergarten is a very different experience for kids throughout the city. Some can read, others cannot. What a horrible feeling for a 5-year-old to feel behind. That is not their fault, the child cannot control that and that should not define their future.
My plan for education focuses on ensuring that there is enough attention paid to this first year of school as it will determine success in all grades following. Early intervention and support for families in children K-3 is essential to chart the right course for success.
Parents are children’s most important and constant teachers. We cannot fix the problems in the PSD without their support, engagement and involvement. How can we get education to be the number one priority for each parent in the city? Schools start to get better, and kids do better in school, when parents are engaged. We need to invite them to take part in the process and make them feel comfortable and welcome doing so.
Let’s all rally around one goal that will change the course for children in Philadelphia. We need focus, commitment and a clear objective — every student reads by the end of Kindergarten. We need to be bold and aggressive if we want to change — for real. Great ideas only have great impact on our children’s education when they can be executed.