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March 02, 2023

Mayor Jim Kenney's proposed budget includes expanding Philly's pre-K program

The city's schools will get $282 million, an increase of $12 million in funding, and a continued investment in providing internet and digital access to eligible families

Government Budget Proposal
Kenney budget proposal 2024 Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Mayor Jim Kenney shared his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024 on Thursday. The $6.1 billion budget includes $282 million for the School District of Philadelphia, a $12 million increase from the previous year, and seats for 950 more pre-K students.

Mayor Jim Kenney delivered his eighth and final budget address Thursday, promising to add space for nearly 1,000 more children in the city's pre-K program.

Since taking office, Kenney has made education one of his top priorities, increasing the funding yearly. Under his new proposal, Kenney wants to expand Philadelphia's pre-K program to accommodate 5,250 students, marking an increase of 950 spots. 

"When we make investments in education, especially in the youngest learners, we're investing in a process that takes longer than an election cycle to prove its full potential," Kenney said. "But the wait is worth it."

Funding for free pre-K has been drawn primarily through the city's soda tax bill since 2016. Under the legislation, a tax of 1.5 cents is applied for every ounce of the beverages sold. From 2017 to 2022, the tax generated $409 million for the city, data from the Office of the City Controller says. Pre-K programs received $158.1 million, or 38.6% of that revenue. 

In his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024, the mayor allots $282 million to the School District of Philadelphia, a $12 million increase from last year.

Another significant investment in the proposal is increased digital equity for students in the city. As a part of a five-year plan, Kenney wants to put $8.3 million toward expanding access to the internet and digital devices through Philadelphia's PHLConnectEd initiative. Starting during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city helped eligible households with pre-K through 12th-grade students get free internet access. 

Over the next five years, the mayor said he plans to invest $1.4 billion into the school district. 

"Providing our children with high-quality services and opportunities, from infancy to adulthood, is still the absolute best thing that we can do for them and for our city," he said during his address. 

For college students, Kenney has proposed an investment of $51 million towards the Community College of Philadelphia and over $11 million to the Octavius Catto Scholarship, which allows first-time college students to go to school for free. As a part of his five-year plan, Kenney proposes investing a cumulative $255 million into the Community College of Philadelphia by 2028. 

The investments outlined in the proposal would amount to a $6.1 billion budget.

The next step is a review by Philadelphia's City Council. After that, any budget adjustments must be made by June.