Mayor pitches soda tax to help pay for pre-K and community schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Mayor Kenney, in his first budget address, proposed $400 million in new money over five years to pay for a handful of priority initiatives, including universal pre-K and community schools.

The funding, he says, would come from a 3-cents-per-ounce tax on soda, a measure that has twice before been struck down by City Council.

Universal pre-kindergarten is a top goal for the mayor. With almost half of Philadelphia’s children entering kindergarten unprepared, the mayor said, his proposed $256 million investment would help create 25,000 high-quality pre-K seats over the next five years.

Investing in pre-K would have both long-term and more immediate effects on the economy, he said. Raising the number of pre-K slots would create jobs both inside and outside of early childhood education. Having every child in pre-K would also stabilize the workforce, because parents can be more successful at work when they have reliable child care, he said.

In addition to pre-K, the mayor proposed that $39 million from the soda tax revenue go toward his plan to create 25 community schools in his first term. These schools would act as neighborhood centers, integrating social services and health care into the school, while boosting parental and community engagement.

Here is the text of the mayor’s prepared remarks.

Mayor Kenney Budget Address 2017