By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With Philadelphia’s soda tax receiving court approval this month, the city’s pre-kindergarten expansion is on track to begin next Wednesday. Providers are gearing up to fill 2,000 new seats.

The seats are spread through 90 preschools around the city. Some filled up right away, others are still processing applications. Desiree Shields has filled about half the 20 seats she’s adding at the GLAD Center in Southwest Philadelphia but expects to fill the rest by next week.

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“I live in the neighborhood and I see the need, and it’s like, okay, now this is the opportunity, and when a family calls, they’re like, ‘Miss Dez, is this really free’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s really free.'”

Another provider, Katie Dougherty of SPIN, opening forty new seats in Parkwood, has filled 27 and says applications are pouring in for the remaining 13.

“I think they’re just excited that they have the opportunity to come to a quality program that they normally would be challenged to afford.”

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SPIN provides services to kids with special needs and started regular preschool so they could mainstream those students. They found that preschool turned out to be a tool for preventing the need for special services.

“They’re more prepared when they get into kindergarten so it’s really exciting to watch.”

That, of course, is the underlying principle of making pre-K universal at a cost of $23-million.

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Each center receives $8,500 dollars per student, funded by the soda tax.