The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is proud to join Philadelphians for a Fair Future, the coalition leading citizen support for Mayor Kenney's sugary sweetened beverage tax. We support the mayor's plan to invest in high-quality pre-K education, parks, rec centers, and libraries, because it supports children, families, and neighborhoods. Among other benefits, this proposal will expand opportunities for high-impact arts and culture programming for thousands of residents throughout the city.

The arts are a key part of the solution to the tremendous community development challenges facing Philadelphia. Penn's Social Impact of the Arts Project has found that cultural organizations positively affect social tensions, health, education, and economics. Groups like ArtWell, The Clay Studio, Mighty Writers, Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, PCCY's Picasso Project, and countless more already offer vital programming for underserved communities, but many neighborhoods, according to SIAP, are losing arts groups and not seeing them replaced. Rec centers and libraries provide many community and after-school arts programs, concerts, visual arts exhibits, and performances in partnership with arts organizations, and the mayor's proposal to improve these facilities will provide access to more people.

Philadelphia's cultural community is also a critical asset for youth education. In our 2014 Portfolio research report, the Alliance found that despite school budget cuts that eliminated arts classes for many district schools, field trip attendance increased by 17 percent from FY2009 to FY2012, and cultural organizations presented over 20,000 programs within classrooms. Improvements to libraries and rec centers and creating more pre-K sites in neighborhoods will provide opportunities for arts education that will reach many more residents and give kids the tools they need to be creative thinkers throughout their lives.

The mayor's plan is ambitious, but it will go a long way toward solving some of the city's major challenges. It must have sufficient funding if it is to succeed. Alternatives like the container tax, which raise tens of millions of dollars less, will not bring the change we need. The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance recognizes the key role our community can play in supporting this proposal, and we encourage members of City Council to do the same.

Maud Lyon is president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.