Quality early childhood education (ECE) helps ensure that the critical development stage birth and age 5—when 90% of a child’s brain develops—is an enriching and educational experience that prepares children to build relationships, learn in school, and graduate ready for college or careers. Unfortunately, only 16% of all licensed ECE seats in the city of Philadelphia are operated by providers that are considered high quality (rated STAR 3 or STAR 4 by the state rating agency), and those providers are at capacity.
Reinvestment Fund, in partnership with the William Penn Foundation and the Public Health Management Corporation, launched the Fund for Quality in spring 2014, in order to expand the availability of high-quality ECE for Philadelphia’s low-income families. In its first two years, the Fund awarded grants to 17 high-quality ECE centers. By the end of 2015, they are expected to collectively serve 630 more children every year, the majority of which are low-income children.
ECE providers struggle to make ends meet, and state subsidies for families in need do not cover the minimum cost per child. Over-capacity and under-financed, most quality ECE providers are unable to expand, and many struggle to maintain current levels of operations.
The Fund is taking critical steps to create more opportunities for low-income families to access quality ECE for their children. Fund for Quality helped Kinder Academy acquire and renovate a new center on Elgin Avenue, which opened in September 2015. Kinder is dedicated to serving low-income families (over 90% of children attending a Kinder center are eligible for some form of tuition subsidy). The new location will serve 168 children through full- and part-time infant, toddler and preschool care. Another center, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, received support to renovate its current location—maximizing the use of space and tailoring it to meet the needs of the children it serves. Now, Mercy can serve 27 more children each year and continue to provide high-quality care.