At a time when many child care centers face closures due to the economic fallout following the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Philadelphia just directed $2 million into its early care and education programs. Money from Philadelphia’s four-year-old sweetened beverage tax makes this multi-million-dollar investment possible.
“Quality education plays a major factor in improving the socio-economic status of children and families across our city,” explained Jake Zychick, the community advocacy director for the American Heart Association in Philadelphia. “By increasing access to early child care, children begin their education before they even start kindergarten. It also means parents can seek out employment and education opportunities while their children are being cared for.”
The $2 million will support PHLpreK, which funds free, quality pre-K in Philadelphia. Centers that receive funds can use the dollars to bolster staff salaries or to buy classroom supplies like chairs, desks and napping mats as well as books, puzzles, arts and crafts, and other educational materials.
Important figures to note, said Zychick:
- More than 3,300 three-and four-year-olds receive education at 138 PHLpreK centers across the city.
- Many of the programs are in what are called early child care deserts, or areas lacking access to quality early care and education programs.
- About 66% of the families attending PHLpreK are at 200% of the poverty level or below.
- Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, 160 child care centers have shut down in Pennsylvania.
”This $2 million dollar investment has positive short and long term effects,” said Zychick. “The immediate impact is that centers receive the money they need to help them stay afloat during the pandemic so they can continue offering children a quality pre-K education. If our city is going to reduce poverty rates, if it’s going to improve health disparities, if we’re going to have a leading voice in the 21st-century as a city, these are the investments that must happen now. We have to invest now for the future.”