On Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Education, along with Council President Darrell Clarke and the Education Law Center, welcomed UC Berkeley economist Dr. Rucker Johnson to Philadelphia’s City Hall, where he presented his nationally renowned research on the effects of long-term investment in education. Despite the rainy weather there was a great turn out, including Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilwoman Helen Gym, and State Senators Vincent Hughes and Art Haywood.

Mayor Kenney opened the presentation with a warm welcome and a firm stance on funding schools – because proper funding has an “undeniable” positive impact. Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney followed suit, reminding the audience of his experience as a principal in Philadelphia, where he saw first-hand that when students get what they need, they can thrive.

When Dr. Johnson took the stage, he explained just how critical it is to offer quality pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) programs in high poverty areas, and that the positive effects almost double if those children move on to well-resourced schools. In fact, just a 20% increase in K-12 spending can shrink economic inequality by two-thirds.

Dr. Johnson warned that lack of continued funding can have the opposite effect. Even if a child attends a quality pre-K program, that child’s chances of success are dangerously low if not exposed to quality education and provided sufficient resources later. Dr. Johnson’s passion and expertise were clear as he told the crowd that “we cannot wait – this is not something our children can afford to miss out on.”

Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite and State Senator Vincent Hughes followed Dr. Johnson, echoing his call for school financial reform. Many people stayed after Dr. Johnson’s presentation for a reception where he discussed his research and answered questions.