At school year-end celebration, praise for the city's free pre-K program

The mayor says industry opposition to soda tax is hampering universal pre-K.

Molly Daly
June 01, 2018 - 2:58 pm
Mayor Jim Kenney stands with pre-K students at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.

Molly Daly/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — City officials capped the first full school year of Philadelphia's free pre-K program, and the start of enrollment for the next, with a celebration on Friday morning at the Please Touch Museum. The occasion was overshadowed by a soda industry lawsuit, as well as a bill that would abolish the sweetened-beverage tax that pays for the program.

The cavernous space rang with happy, young voices, as kids, many wearing "PHLpreK" t-shirts, climbed on and through the museum's exhibits, as teachers and parents beamed. Charlise Walker says her twins, David and Cheyenne, are learning a lot in pre-K.

"Reading, spelling, their alphabet, words, sounds of words, math, different cultures," Walker said.

She says although the soda tax is high, it's paying big dividends.

"More kids are learning at an early age. They're able to go to school for free. So it definitely helps," she said. "As long as I can see where the tax money is going, I'm fine with that."

Mayor Jim Kenney says industry opposition to the tax is hamstringing the push for universal pre-K.

"This is really a positive program that's working well, and we have basically a bunch of greedy men that want to keep it from happening."