As Mayor Jim Kenney continues to build his coalition of backers for his universal pre-K campaign, he’s making strides with his friends in the teacher's union.
Folks from the WithinReach Campaign and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) joined Kenney Monday at LaSalle University to discuss how cities and states can lead the way in implementing pre-K for all working families.
Currently, more than 17,000 children in the city do not have access to pre-K, and statistics show 68 percent of Pennsylvania children younger than age 6 have both parents in the workforce.
If the mayor is successful in getting his three-cents-per-ounce soda tax passed, he plans to put those revenues towards universal pre-K.
On Monday, Kenney visited CORA Services Early Years at LaSalle University, a Keystone STAR 4 accredited program, to see how they do things.
“We’re proposing to expand access to quality pre-K in Philly, but cities can’t do it alone,” said Kenney.
“As we’re having a debate about our national priorities, early education needs to be at the forefront.”
With the presidential primary next week, Kenney, the WithinReach Campaign and the PFT used the CORA visit to build momentum around the push for universal pre-K and Kenney’s soda tax proposal.
“We launched the WithinReach Campaign in November to call on all presidential candidates to prioritize finding national solutions to put high-quality pre-K within reach for working families,” said Sarah Baron, campaign manager for early childhood learning at the Center for American Progress.
“Kenney has been a leader on this issue in Philly. Now is the time to ensure Pennsylvanians are thinking about early education as they’re making their decision. We’re calling on all candidates to make this a major priority. I think right now our nation is having as debate about our priorities and what we want for the middle class – let’s ensure that when we’re having this debate, early education and child care is a major part of it.”
Kenney faces a bit of an uphill battle, however, in getting his soda tax passed through City Council. Former Mayor Michael Nutter was twice unsuccessful at getting a similar tax passed, and it was less than the three cents per ounce the mayor is proposing now.
City Councilman Al Taubenberger has been critical of the tax in the past. Ironically, he was at CORA Monday with Kenney and the crew.
“My 23 years in the chamber of commerce, I know for a fact at some point that full tax is being imposed down the line,” Taubenberger said during a budget hearing on April 6.
“They may not do it the first year for strategies or marketing and that sort of thing. But you know what, that – that money is going to come down the line. And a lot of small people are going to be paying that extra tax. I don't think it's good.”
“Today’s focus was primarily on why pre-K matters and how it connects to the political narrative that we should be talking about on the national level,” said Hillary Linardopoulos, staff representative at PFT.
“This can sometimes get replaced with partisan bickering and campaign tactics and really it should be the center focus for politics as we care for our children.”
Linardopoulos said the PFT has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.