Mayor launches commission to study universal pre-K for Philly

Jeff Smyth

Parents inPhiladelphia got one step closer tohaving universalaccess for every 3 and 4-year-oldto pre-kindergarten services.

Mayor Nutterannounced Tuesday the launch of the Commission on Universal Pre-Kindergarten,consisting of 17 members.

“This commission will address, head on, one of the major challenges facing Philadelphia — how to educate our children,” Mayor Nutter said.“They will also make proposals on how to pay for programming.”

The commission, which was formed after voters approved a ballot question in May to create it,has hit the ground running since they met for the first time before Mayor Nutter’s announcement.

The commission membersconsistof five officials appointed by Mayor Nutter, five appointed by City Council, two City Council members and five other stakeholders from the city and state.

“They understand the importance of early learning and what it means for our city,” said Nutter.“Their expertise will move us forward, heading in the right direction.”

The plan seeks to implement what has already been established in other major U.S. cities such as New York City, Boston and San Francisco.

“Studies show there are intangible benefits in early learning,” Nutter said. “They feel better in school overall, have better social skills, have fewer behavioral problems, are less likely to be enrolled in special education classes, are more likely to graduate high school, are less likely to be incarcerated later on in life and experience a higher earning potential over their lifetime.”

Education leaders are expecting to rely on the state to provide most of the funding for this program. Gov.Tom Wolf allocated $120 million in his proposed state budget for pre-Kprograms, but it remains to be seen if that will be delivered.

The results of the commission’s work are due to be delivered to the mayor and City Council by April 2016.

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