This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Education advocates in Philadelphia have reason for good cheer this week. Actually, they have 27.5 million reasons.
That’s the amount of money earmarked for the city’s Office of Community Schools and Universal Pre-K in the fiscal year 2017 budget. As you’ve likely heard by now, that injection of cash comes via the sugary beverages tax approved Thursday by City Council.
So what should Philadelphians expect in the coming fiscal year from their tax dollars?
On the pre-K front, the city expects to add 2,000 new seats in January and 1,000 more in September 2017. But officials don’t know for sure where those seats will be. The city will soon publish requests for quotations (RFQs), which essentially are calls to the city’s pre-K providers asking them to apply for this new pile of money.
The city wants to target certain neighborhoods for expanded pre-K – in particular, areas with high poverty and limited child-care options. In a set of recommendations issued earlier this year, the city’s Commission on Universal Pre-K mapped out neighborhoods by need.
One of the RFQs will be for child-care providers that the city already deems to be high quality. The money in that pot will be used to expand these already-successful centers.
The city will also steer money toward centers that are on the verge of becoming high quality, but need a little extra push. In those cases, the funding might not actually go toward adding new seats, but rather improving existing seats. Lower-quality providers will get provisional contracts – perhaps 18 to 24 months – with a mandate that they improve their quality during the contract period.
How much money ends up in each of these pots depends on which providers apply. It’s also worth noting that the city plans to use a "mixed-delivery system," meaning private providers and pre-K programs housed in public schools will be eligible to receive expansion money.
The city’s total pre-K budget for fiscal year 2017 will be $23.25 million.