This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Officials at Philadelphia’s newest community schools outlined their priorities Monday even as the broader initiative appears to be on hold.
Citing ongoing litigation against the city’s new sweetened-beverage tax, Mayor Kenney’s administration doesn’t plan to name new community schools this year. A lawsuit against the beverage tax is awaiting trial before the state Supreme Court, potentially imperiling funding earmarked for pre-K expansion, recreation center rehabilitation, and community school creation.
“We currently don’t have an expansion itself planned for this year,” said Susan Gobreski, who runs the community schools initiative for the Mayor’s Office of Education. “We’ll make some decisions once the beverage tax is resolved.”
In its first year, the beverage tax also generated less money than administration officials projected. Last year, the 1.5 cents-per-ounce tax raised $79 million, about $13 million less than the $92 million the city had projected.
Amid the revenue shortfall and litigation, Kenney has reduced the scope and ambition of his signature education initiatives. After initially pledging to create 25 community schools by fiscal year 2020, the administration now anticipates having 20 community schools online by fiscal year 2023, according to the latest five-year plan. The city’s pre-K expansion will now include 5,500 new high-quality seats instead of 6,500.