PHILADELPHIA – A broad coalition including small business owners, faith leaders, labor unions, educators, environmentalists, economists, activists and neighborhood leaders from all across Philadelphia stated their support for the Mayor’s plan to expand quality pre-k, establish 25 community schools and invest in Philadelphia’s parks, rec centers and libraries today. Their statements are as follows.

Pastor James Hall, Senior Pastor Triumph Baptist Church: “I support the Mayor’s programs and the tax he’s raising to fund them. It’s just that simple. We need these programs in our communities.”

Steve Wray, Executive Director of Economy League of Greater Philadelphia: “If you are going to put forward big transformational ideas, you have to find a way to pay for them. No tax is perfect, but this one is likely to have minimal impact on the City’s business climate and it advances crucial investments in education and neighborhoods that will fuel economic growth and opportunity.”

Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU: “Every day, our members and their families are held back by inequities completely out of their control: rampant poverty, crumbling schools and unsafe neighborhoods. That’s unfair.  Mayor Kenney’s plan to tackle those inequities by levying a 3 cent tax on wealthy distributors? Not so unfair.”

Minister Rodney Muhammad, Philadelphia NAACP President: “In this difficult time in the city and country, all have to bare some share of the load. Philadelphia residents have not experienced pay or wealth increases, yet we incurred property tax increases. This Soda Tax is painless in comparison.”

Kevin Johnson, Director of Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center: “Given the 26 percent poverty rate in Philadelphia and the need to give our children an educational head start, the $400 million investment of the sugar tax has the potential to educate children and create apprenticeship workforce programs in communities that need them the most.”

Terrence D. Griffith, Pastor for First African Baptist Church and immediate past President, Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, “Mayor Kenney is charged with the responsibility of leading Philadelphia and providing for those who are most vulnerable. These people deserve good schools, safe streets and quality parks, recreation centers and libraries. The choices of how to fund these things are never easiest, but I believe Mayor Kenney has identified a palatable way to fund the programs Philadelphians need. We ought to give the Mayor the opportunity to make Philadelphia the city that gave its children the greatest priority.”

Kenny Gamble and Rahim Islam, Universal Companies: “Universal Companies has spent the last two decades working to break the cycle of poverty in disenfranchised communities. We learned early on that high-quality education is the only way to achieve this goal. We support Mayor Kenney’s proposed sugary drink tax as the mechanism to fund pre-K and community schools expansion. The impact that these initiatives have on children, families, and neighborhoods is profound. Cynics will argue that the sugary drink tax is a ‘poor tax,’ however low-income families stand to benefit the most from the programs this revenue will create.”

Susan Spicka, Director, Education Voters of PA, “Education Voters supports Mayor Kenney’s proposal to tax sugary drinks to pay for these initiatives that will directly benefit education for children in Philadelphia, which will have broader benefits to society. We need to meet the comprehensive needs of children – from social, emotional and health needs, to extended and enhanced learning, like extended learning time and quality PreK. There are economic and social benefits when we improve conditions for children. Resource equity matters too – and for that you need to make investments. This is a smart, forward thinking move and we support it.”

Ted Qualli, Police Athletic League, “As an organization providing out-of-school time athletic and educational programming to upwards of 18,000 children in facilities across this city, including several city-owned recreation centers, we are excited by the prospect of capital improvements throughout the Department of Parks and Recreation. Repairing and upgrading facilities will go a long way toward leveling the playing field for all Philadelphia children, especially those in our underserved neighborhoods.”

George Matysik, Executive Director, Philadelphia Parks Alliance, “From the deep Southwest to the Far Northeast, our community infrastructure is long overdue for investment–and Mayor Kenney’s initiative does just that.  Rebuilding Community Infrastructure is about rebuilding the backbone assets of our neighborhoods. With an investment this critical to our children, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance believes all revenue options need to be on the table.”

John Grady, President, PIDC, “Mayor Kenney’s proposed investments in our communities–early education, community schools and neighborhood recreation centers, libraries and parks—send a strong signal to current and prospective residents that Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are, and will continue to be, places for families to choose to live and raise their families.  This focus on vibrant and growing neighborhoods will reinforce and drive the city’s growing advantage as a place that attracts and retains a diverse range of talent because of our strong quality of life, building a strong base for long-term job growth and economic vitality.”

John White, President, Public Financial Management, “Rebuild is an enlightened investment in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods that, in the long term, will enhance the city’s tax base by improving our quality of life.”

Donna Cooper, Executive Director, PCCY, “The Mayor’s proposal makes great sense for kids.  The public investment in the places where our children play and go afterschool sends a great message to our children, that we care about them.  While there is no tax that everyone likes, this one is modest and supports the goals of making our city a healthier place to live, and that’s good for kids too.”

Julio Soto, owner of El Soto bodega on 15th and Tasker: “I support the soda tax because it’s funding programs that will help make my community stronger and, ultimately, increase business. If customers decide not to drink sugary drinks, I can stock other drinks, but if the neighborhood I live in work in doesn’t have strong schools and safe streets, that’s a much bigger problem.”

Angelina Williams, Parent, former Home and School Association: “If we can get more children ready for school by providing more high quality Pre-K, and support community schools for them when they get there, then I support a tax on sugary drinks to pay for it. For my child and all children, it is worth it and I’ll pay it willingly.”

Edgardo González, Community Leader and Board Member of Board Chair of Taller Puertorriqueño, “This tax may cause some short term pain for the soda industry, but we know they can adjust to a decrease in demand for sugary drinks because they’ve already been doing it for the last 20 years. I’m encouraging everyone in the Latino community, from the bodega owner to our most recent immigrants, to support a tax that can create real opportunity for all of us.  Any parent will willingly pay a little more for their soda if this is going to help provide better schools, more early childhood programs and better libraries, recreation centers and parks for their kids.”

Steve Lam, Philadelphia Chinese Community Organization United: “Everyone in our community, including our small business owners, recognizes that the only way we will truly succeed is if our children have access to a good education system and safe communities. We support Mayor Kenney’s plan because it will allow us to give our children the future they deserve.”

Otis Bullock, Executive Director, Diversified Community Services: “Mayor Kenney is our first mayor in Philadelphia to make pre-K a priority for all. He understands that all kids deserve equal opportunities regardless of where they come from and what circumstances they are born into. If we want to break the cycle of generational poverty and the school to prison pipeline, we need to help families access affordable, quality pre-K in every neighborhood. The sugary drink tax will help low-income families and communities of color who need it the most and I support this effort 100%.”

Ahn Nguyen-Brown, Principal, George Nebinger Elementary School: “Pre-K is where kids develop a love of learning and a love of reading. I can always tell when students have had quality pre-K by their socialization skills and ability to work together. Students understand the concept of cooperative groups and sharing which results in less conflicts. As a principal and parent, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact that quality pre-K has on my students, the school, and my own children. We as a community should support the sugary drink tax as a means of providing critical education to children who desperately need it.”

Tanisha Woods, Owner, Little Learners Literacy Academy in South Philadelphia: “As the owner and operator of an early childhood education (ECE) center in South Philadelphia, I am consistently working to grow my business. I am ecstatic that Mayor Kenney appreciates how important quality pre-K is for children, families, and small businesses like mine. The public needs to understand that there is a cost to quality. Facility enhancements, professional development for staff, and teaching tools like books and curricula require investment that ECE centers typically can’t access. All pre-K providers committed to providing quality education should support the sugary drink tax as a means of expanding quality pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds who currently lack access.”

Hillary Kane, Director, Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND), “Philadelphia will benefit tremendously when the City expands the community schools approach in local schools. Dedicated coordinators will be able to create strategic partnerships with new and existing service providers in order to better meet the needs of the whole child. This doesn’t just happen on its own — it takes intentional leadership and staff time to make it happen at the scale and depth required to make an impact in our city and for our children.  I believe the sugary drink tax will help provide needed revenue to move this important initiative forward – which we must do.”

Rachel Honore, West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning: “Early literacy is the key to reading on grade level, graduating on time, and contributing to society. The money for pre-K expansion needs to come from somewhere and this is a tax that won’t hurt our economy more than it will help it. Families in my community need quality pre-K. I myself have a four-year old son with autism and pre-K has helped him thrive.”

Sharon Marino, Principal, Alexander K. McClure Elementary School: “The need for Pre-K expansion in Philadelphia is immediate. At McClure Elementary we have two Bright Futures classrooms, which can accommodate 40 students; last year we had an additional 40 students on our wait list.  Even more concerning is that our two closest neighborhood schools do not offer Pre-K…meaning that hundreds of children in our high poverty and high English Language Learner boundaries are coming to Kindergarten far behind their peers who have had high-quality Pre-K experiences. The sugary drink tax will allow equitable opportunities for our three and four year olds no matter what community they live in.  Mayor Kenney’s plan lays out a foundation that would support our most vulnerable populations and allow access to high-quality experiences.  With each passing year we are setting our students further behind; Pre-K needs to be available to all, and the sugary drink tax is a reasonable method to get us there.”

Melissa McPhillips, First Grade Teacher, School District of Philadelphia: “I currently teach first grade in a Philadelphia public school and I previously taught kindergarten for eight years. Students who participate in quality pre-K arrive to Kindergarten ready and eager to learn. They are accustomed to working in groups, following instructions, and being in a full-day school environment. Those who do not, often struggle to keep up with their peers. Unfortunately, some never catch up and the achievement gap widens year to year. Universal pre-K will help all kids come to school with the tools they need to succeed so teachers can maximize valuable instructional time and students can learn. Teachers should stand with Mayor Kenney to expand quality pre-K for Philly kids.”

Michael Lowe, Principal, Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School: “The mayor’s plan affords us the opportunity to fund something we have never done before and that is to provide for the next generation of school children in Philadelphia in a positive, proactive way.”

Tawana Tonkins, Owner and Director, Kai’s Comfy Corner Child Care and Early Learning Center, South Philadelphia: “I started my early learning center almost fourteen years ago when I was frustrated by the lack of quality options available for my own child. I wholeheartedly support Mayor Kenney’s plan to expand quality pre-K. In order to increase pre-K citywide though, providers will need certified pre-K teachers. We cannot attract and retain qualified instructors in the early education field if we do not pay them family-sustaining wages. This is far from the case right now in this sector. Pre-K expansion relies on the ability to increase wages for early educators and we can only achieve this through new, stable revenue. I support the sugary drink tax if it means increasing quality pre-K options for families, and paying qualified pre-K teachers the living wages they deserve.”

Elaine Gonzalez Johnson, Latinas in Motion: “As a mom and a community leader, I know how desperately the children in our city’s neighborhoods need high quality pre-K to help them be ready for school and rec center programs to give them a safe place to exercise. Mayor Kenney’s proposal can make a big difference for Philly’s kids.”