By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At the heart of the city’s soda tax debate is the mayor’s plan to expand city-funded pre-K seats.

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Philadelphia officials today are comparing notes with administrators in other cities to see how Universal pre-K is faring elsewhere.

The William Penn Foundation, which has put $15 million into Philadelphia’s pre-K plan, brought together early childhood leaders from New York, Denver, Cleveland and San Francisco — all cities where the pre-k effort is further along.

Elliot Weinbaum, William Penn Foundation program director, says there’s little argument about the value of pre-k.

“All of the evidence suggests that the earlier we can help kids get a strong start in life, the more successful they’ll be.”

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In New York City, there is state-funded pre-k for 68,000 four-year-olds.

Josh Wallack, the deputy chancellor of the New York City Education Department, says Philadelphia should be aggressive.

“You don’t want to wait to give four-year-olds the opportunity to get free full-day high-quality pre-K. And so we would encourage them to be bold the way New York City was.”

He says New York has a team of neighborhood outreach workers, to tell parents that free full-day pre-k is available.


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