Mayoral politics slowing early childhood center?
Back in March, it looked like the pieces were in place for construction of a $12 million early-childhood education center in the Parkside neighborhood of Ward 7, financed by a philanthropy run by the daughter of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
The Buffett Early Childhood Fund announced on March 23 that it hoped to break ground this summer on land adjacent to Neval Thomas Elementary School. All that remained was agreement on a land lease from the District, which Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was expected to send to the D.C. Council for approval within two weeks.
But in the nearly three months since, that lease has yet to make its way from the mayor's office to Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. The Gray camp privately attributes the slow walk to primary politics, with Fenty loathe to facilitate anything that will make his opponent look good. Pre-K and early childhood issues are a political sweetspot for Gray, who has championed several initiatives on that front. And Ward 7 is his home turf.
Buffett Fund president Daniel J. Pedersen said politics are not in the picture, and that the project has been slowed up because the parcels of land next to Neval Thomas are owned by multiple government entities. "There are a lot of moving parts but not much remaining disagreement," he said. "We expect to cross the finish line in June on all remaining issues. The mayor's race is not a factor in the discussions."
Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson has not responded to an e-mail query sent Monday afternoon.
One apparent vote of confidence that District players will eventually work out their differences came this week from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which announced $5.7 million in grants to support early childhood care and education in the city.The biggest is a two-year $5 million donation to the Parkside Educare project, which would be run jointly as non-profit by DCPS, OSSE and the United Planning Organization. The rest of the money will go to Pre-K for All D.C. and D.C. Action for Children to promote and expand access to early education.
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