The last six years have seen a transformation of child care and early education in Philadelphia.
With prodding and money from the state, quality has been significantly upgraded, access has been expanded, and thousands of child care practitioners have improved their own education and skills, which is better for children. A growing cadre of parents has become more aware of how to find, choose, and evaluate the services that exist.
When the School District drew up a budget last spring with an increase in spending of 11 percent – more than $300 million – it looked like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Philadelphia to close the gap with surrounding districts in areas like class size and student-counselor ratios.
The unprecedented infusion of federal stimulus money and state aid seemed too good to be true.
And it was.
We know from decades of research that quality early childhood education is the most cost-effective way to improve a child’s performance in school and in life.
So it makes no sense that the United States still treats early education as a luxury or add-on.
While public education in grades K-12 is an entitlement for all, no branch of government has acted to guarantee every child access to a quality preschool experience. As a result, Philadelphia can provide only enough pre-K slots for one-fourth of the eligible children.