This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s long-awaited, much-debated pre-K expansion has officially begun.
At a Thursday press conference, city leaders announced the creation of 2,000 new high-quality pre-K seats, funded by Philly’s sweetened beverage tax.
Dubbed PHLpreK, the city-funded system is expected to have 6,500 seats by 2021. All city families can apply, regardless of income, but new seats are purposefully concentrated in high-poverty areas where quality pre-K is in short supply.
“As of this moment, families can now call and apply for free, quality pre-K, and I believe that’s just an awesome change in our environment,” said Mayor Kenney, who made pre-K expansion a signature campaign issue and battled for a sweetened beverage tax to pay for it.
The city plans to place the new seats at 78 sites run by 61 different providers. Most of those sites are run by private pre-K providers. Lamberton Elementary School is the only expansion site run by the School District. Twelve more sites are supervised by the School District, but managed privately. In all, the District received 340 of the 2,000 new seats.