BevTax fight is over–KIDS WIN!
This week, by a degree of magnitude that is all too rare these days, the lives of thousands of children got better and Philadelphia became a better place to raise kids.
Our hands are untied. The gloves are off. Philadelphia’s sweetened beverage tax was finally ruled legal by the PA Supreme Court.
In rejecting the beverage industry’s costly and prolonged lawsuit that hindered Mayor Kenney’s ambitious plan to give our youngest children a great foundation of learning, reduce inequality and poverty, and improve our schools, the Court has removed the final hurdle that has held us back.
Although City Council passed the beverage tax two years ago and the 1.5 cents-per-ounce tax on soda distributors went into effect beginning January 1st 2017, the City limited the number of new pre-K seats to 2,000 while major repairs to libraries and rec centers across Philadelphia were left in a holding pattern.
While the Mayor was confident of the legality of the tax, the millions of dollars the beverage industry poured into the lawsuit (of which PCCY submitted an amicus brief in support of the tax) and the relentless PR campaign demanded this prudent tact.
The 2,000 pre-K seats will grow to 3,000 by 2020 and by 2023 that number will be at 5,500. Those children will be far less likely to become justice-involved, more likely to graduate high school, and reduce the need for special education—benefits that the City and the District will reap for generations.
Just last month, Council finally passed Rebuild legislation that will ultimately put shovels in the ground for revamped libraries, rec centers, and playgrounds. In addition to hundreds of new jobs for trades workers and badly needed neighborhood renewal, this means children and youth across the city will have safe places to play and grow—basic resources that should never be taken for granted.
[We would be remiss not to note that pre-K expansion and upgrading recreation centers were key components of PCCY’s Pledge for Philadelphia’s Children, which then-mayoral candidate Jim Kenney signed, alongside members of council. We are grateful for their strong leadership and for keeping their promise.]
The plan also included creating community schools that integrate social services into the schools themselves, increasing access for students and also the public, elevating schools into community hubs and promoting parental engagement. Currently, there are 12 community schools in operation but by 2023 there will be 20.
We want to thank you for every email you sent, every call to council you made, every action you took over the past two years to invest in a stronger Philadelphia for children and their families. Mayor Kenney has gone out of his way to credit PCCY for leading this campaign and thanking our volunteers and supporters for helping to make history. Time and time again, you stood with us in hearing after hearing, and never let us forget you were willing to make this crucial investment because our kids are worth it.
The plan to rebuild Philadelphia will obviously take a few years to complete but the undeniable sense of hope for a better future for our children is already here. Now that’s refreshing!