South Philly West: Data Shows Lack of Quality Pre-K Childcare

Data released in March suggests residents in South Philadelphia west of Broad Street severely lack access to quality pre-kindergarten care.

The Childcare Map is an interactive tool that allows people to search an area of Philadelphia and view options for early childcare. The data comes from Fund for Quality, which aims to expand availability to quality early learning centers in Philadelphia for low-income families.

Of the 114 certified childcare facilities in the area, just eight rated high-quality by Keystone STARS, an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. Keystone Stars rates childcare programs on a scale of one to four stars, with three and four star programs considered high-quality.

Those eight high-quality programs only have about 800 slots though, leaving a significant shortage of quality care. Forty-three percent of childcare facilities in the area either rated at zero stars or were not certified altogether.

Private daycare, such as Little Shepherd's Christian Learning Center (pictured) can cost upwards of $9,000 per year.
Private daycare, such as Little Shepherd’s Christian Learning Center (pictured) can cost upwards of $9,000 per year.

But the area only had enough pre-K centers (both high and low-quality) for about 3,000 children at certified childcare facilities, leaving more than 1,600 to find other means of childcare. Oftentimes adults or teenagers with little or no formal training in childcare watch the children during the day, said Shawn Towey, Early Childhood Policy Coordinator at Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). PCCY is one of ten organizations pushing for increased pre-kindergarten funding in Pennsylvania through the campaign Pre-K for PA.

“It’s nearly impossible [to assess] a lot of places,” she said, “A lot of them are just glorified babysitters.”

Towey said many private childcare facilities do not give the children an adequate curriculum which can set them back for kindergarten. Research on pre-k care suggests children in high-quality programs do better in school.

But just 17 percent of children have access to quality pre-K in the area.

Nereida Zayas, administrative director at Early Childhood Environment’s Bilingual Head Start on Broad and Catharine streets, said her facility could move up to a two-star program following an upcoming evaluation from Keystone STARS. Moving up will allow her school to get more funding for not only teachers, but professional schooling for those teachers.

“The more stars you have, the more money you get,” Zayas said, “We were always in Head Start but it wasn’t mandatory to be in Keystone STARS. It is now because of the funding.”

Pie chart showing the number of slots in each type of childcare facility

Text, images and map by Dan Hampton

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