This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Mayor Kenney’s plan to provide free preschool to all city 3- and 4-year-olds lacking access to quality options is getting a major philanthropic boost.
At an event Tuesday afternoon, the William Penn Foundation announced a $15 million five-year capital grant that will allow high-quality pre-kindergarten providers to expand physical capacity – paving the way for creation of at least 1,500 new seats in the city by 2021.
That will give tens of thousands of children better opportunities over time and benefit the region economically, said Janet Haas, chairwoman of the foundation’s board.
"Clearly the city needs all its citizens to be functioning at their very best potential, and early childhood education is an important ingredient in that," she said in a telephone interview.
A recent study of the Philadelphia area found that providers have little fiscal incentive to provide top-tier early childhood education.
This grant aims to reward operators with high-quality track records. Funds will be available only to pre-K operators with a 3 or 4 rating on the state’s Keystone Stars metric.
The Kenney administration lauded the announcement.
"My administration is committed to increasing quality pre-K opportunities, but we certainly cannot do it alone," said Kenney in a statement. "Business and philanthropic participation is critical to the success of this effort."
Kenney’s pre-K chief Anne Gemmell said the grant will allow providers to upgrade classrooms and build new facilities that they otherwise couldn’t.