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Schools, development in mayor's race

Published by Tim McNulty on .

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Leading Pittsburgh mayoral candidates Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner made their pitches to a room full of real estate developers this morning, while separately announcing plans for improving public education.

Mr. Peduto unveiled a proposal to boost funding for preschool education, saying it would enhance the city's current Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program for graduates of city schools. Only 15 percent of Pittsburgh's 10,000 children between one and five years old are in preschool classes, the Point Breeze city Councilman said, so by the time many get to public kindergarten they are already behind their better-education peers.

"If we want kids to be Promise-ready we have to start them now," he said at a press event at a Small World day care center Downtown (pictured above).

Mr. Peduto said he is first working with early childhood education advocates to build grassroots support for the proposal, and then will seek funding for it through federal and state grants and foundation and corporate giving. No budget is yet set.

Mr. Wagner's campaign said it will concentrate on expanding student programs such as internships, summerJack Wagner employment, after-school activities, with a special emphasis on math and science programs. The former state Auditor General said he was uniquely positioned to better education through his audits of school insitutions statewide and his contacts in Harrisburg and Washington D.C.

"There is a real difference in this race on education. Talking during your campaign is not equal to fighting your entire career. Jack Wagner has audited every school district in the state, including the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Jack understands how the state budget works for education," Wagner spokesman, J.J. Abbott said. "Jack has the knowledge, experience, and relationships needed in a Mayor who wants to take education in Pittsburgh to another level."

This morning both of the candidates pushed their pro-business credentials at a breakfast forum hosted by the commercial real estate organization NAIOP. Mr. Wagner lauded the developers despite having to wade through bureaucratic red tape, which he promised to sweep away if elected.

"What the city of Pittsburgh needs is a leader. It's crying out for a leader. It's crying out for a government that will modernize itself and work with all of you," he said to a group of about 200 officials.

Mr. Peduto went over his work assisting some $2 billion in redevelopment in his East End district, in East Liberty, Oakland and elsewhere, which he promised to take citywide.

"I'm running for mayor because I know we can build that new Pittsburgh . . . I know that I bring to the table more economic development experience than anyone who has run for mayor before," he said.

The two men are running for the Democratic nomination for mayor in the May 21 primary against state Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District and activist A.J. Richardson of Sheraden. Mr. Wheatley showed up at the end of the breakfast forum.

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