Philadelphia delivered a major blow to the soda industry after passing a revolutionary tax on sugary and diet beverages.
Okaying the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on Thursday, Philadelphia became the first major US city to adopt a soda tax, the Associated Press reported.
Led by Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia plans to put the additional money to good use: The estimated $90 million in generated revenue next year will go toward prekindergarten programs, community schools, and recreation centres.
“What we’re looking to do is to take some of that profit, to put it back into the neighbourhoods that have been their biggest customers, to improve the lives and opportunities for the people who live there,” Kenney said last month, according to NPR.
Kenney is a champion of universal pre-K programs and ran on a platform to bring the early education to “as many children as we can reach,” Philly.com reported.
Kenney’s recently passed soda tax is an innovative and potentially beneficial use of tax money to benefit Philadelphia’s public school systems.
Last year, only 32% of third through eight grade students passed state-wide English exams, and a mere 17% passed maths exams.
And while increased funding into early educations doesn’t necessary serve as a panacea for increasing student proficiency in core subjects, studies have shown that prekindergarten programs improve student outcomes later in life.
“During the pre-K years, children are developing the foundation for language in particular and their dispositions and habits,” Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, told The Daily News. “It’s a period in which there’s rapid growth and the child is more influenced by the environment.”
Berkeley, California is the only other city in the US to pass a soda tax. The tax, which was passed in 2014 and went into effect in 2015, generated $1.2 million its first year.
The soda tax, however, isn’t fully in the clear yet. The City of Brotherly Love faces some pushback from the soda industry, which has already funneled $1.5 million into fiercely campaigning against the tax and is also expected to sue Philadelphia.
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