Damon C. Williams, The Philadelphia Tribune, Thursday, June 4, 2015
Mayor Michael Nutter has released details of his comprehensive education initiative, A Running Start Philadelphia: For Every Child, Birth to Five, a program designed to provide high–quality education for children from birth to five years old.
The plan has four key strategies:
Create a one–stop system in which parents and caregivers can determine whether their children are eligible for public programs and, if they are, easily enroll them.
Increase public and private funding for capital improvements for early learning centers in low–income neighborhoods.
Advocate at the state and local levels to require that all publicly-funded, early learning programs participate in Keystone STARS, the state’s quality rating and improvement system.
Increase average salaries, tuition support and professional development opportunities for early-learning teachers and staff.
The plan is the latest initiative produced by the Shared Prosperity Philadelphia plan, the city’s overarching effort to address poverty.
“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.”
Only one in four Philadelphia children had access to formal school–readiness opportunities, and only 21 percent of the city’s licensed child care programs were identified as high–quality, with relatively few of the best-rated programs located in the poorest neighborhoods, officials said.
The running start program will create a public–private partnership coordinating entity, with oversight provided by the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and the mayor’s early learning advisory council. The entity will be responsible for forming broad coalition of stakeholders to address those four strategies.
“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, Shared Prosperity Philadelphia executive director. “That’s why early learning is an essential component of Philadelphia’s anti–poverty strategy.”
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