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Addressing Childhood Wellbeing with Dedicated Funding

During Mayor Kenney’s 2015 election campaign, he met with community residents, representatives, leaders, and legislators to better understand what issues the community identifies and would like change.  Education needs of children and the barriers to education were identified, through further discernment which included the community and experts. Three (3) strategies had broad community support: 

  • Increase access to quality Pre-K (PHLpreK); 

  • Establish community schools; and 

  • Improve parks and recreation facilities and libraries.  


In May of 2015, a ballot initiative to create a Philadelphia Universal Pre-K Commission passed with overwhelming support.

Once the strategies were identified, the next step was to seek a funding source for the initiatives.  The Sweetened Beverage Tax was identified as a sustainable funding source.  City Council approval was required to pass and enact the Sweetened Beverage Tax.  On July 16, 2016, the Philadelphia City Council approved a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on sweetened beverages (the “Philadelphia Beverage Tax”).  This tax is levied on distributers and takes effect on January 1, 2017.  The Philadelphia Beverage Tax is paid to the city by distributors of sweetened beverages.  Philadelphia is the first large city to pass a sweetened beverage tax.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was selected as a NOW Bright Spot because of its work to address the needs of children and their families, so all children may reach their potential and thrive.  Community schools and quality Pre-K, along with addressing improvements in Philadelphia’s park and recreation facilities and libraries are the three initiatives supported with dedicated funding through the recently passed Philadelphia beverage tax.


The city, with the Mayor as a public-sector champion for education and improvement in systems and supports for children and their families, was noted as a key element of Philadelphia’s success.

Frequent communication among stakeholders and alignment of messaging was a key factor in clear communications and discussion of the initiatives and funding.  

Elements of Collective Impact, include:

  • A shared vision of programming to improve childhood wellbeing and academic success;

  • Continuous communications – multisector and multi-stakeholder teams met weekly

  • Mutually reinforcing activities – through sharing of information


Mayor Kenney’s authentic interest in Philadelphia and his concern in Philadelphia’s future were key factors in focusing on education and the selection of program initiatives.  He sought out community input, through town halls, and worked with a broad team of stakeholders.  This engagement provided input into the design of the program initiatives and support for funding.  He is interested in discerning what is the city’s role is in supporting education.  They capitalized on the excitement, energy and the amount of good will of a new administration.

Engagement began with people who were already passionate about education and community members and then broadened.

Frequent outreach to the community included polling to understand what was important to the community.


The PHLpreK and Community Schools strategies included evaluation and continuous process improvement within the program design.  This was intentional to facilitate implementation and positive outcomes.   The PHLpreK strategy is working with an outside consultant to establish their evaluation plan.  The Community School Initiative has established short and long-term goals.  Additionally, each school will identify goals based on their community specific assessment.  The Community School Advisory Committee and individual school parent collaboratives will be implemented to provide feedback.

Goals for the three (3) program initiatives, include:

  • Quality Pre-K: 6,500 children in Pre-K by 2020

  • Community Schools: expand from 9 initial to 25 community schools by 2020

  • Invest in parks and recreation facilities and libraries to bring up to standards


Community Schools will begin assessing the needs and assets of the school community and working to bringing together and align efforts for improvement.  

Each community school will address the specific needs of its school community.  The approach will include trauma informed training of coordinators, school staff and partners.  By design, community schools will address the identified community needs, by building on what is working and aligning systems so school communities thrive.

The educational strategies funded by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax are designed to address issues that impact academic success for children, including adversity and issues of equity which are barriers to academic success for the individual child.


Anjali Chainani, Director of Policy

Mayor’s Office of Policy and Legislation

City of Philadelphia 


Mayor’s Office of Education 

City of Philadelphia Beverage Tax

 The Forum for Youth Investment

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