Game Changers for Children in Erie: How a Court Case, Pennsylvania Budget Priorities, and Advocacy Move the Needle

April 12th,2024 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Professor/Instructor/Speaker: Donna Cooper and Kate Phillips 

Game Changers for Children in Erie: How a Court Case, Pennsylvania Budget Priorities, and Advocacy Move the Needle 


Leading experts will explore the intersection between state politics, public policy, and what kids need – and examine the state of play for kids in Harrisburg. Why are they perennially underrepresented in the budget process?  Donna Cooper, Secretary for Policy & Planning for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and current Executive Director of Pennsylvania's leading child advocacy organization, Children First, will be joined by Kate Philips, Rendell's Press Secretary, and chief executive officer of Parker Philips, one of Pennsylvania's leading strategic marketing and public affairs firms for a behind-the-curtain community conversation. Cooper and Philips have worked together on some of the state's most recognizable public affairs campaigns, including Pre-K for PAPA Schools WorkLead Free Promise Project, and Level Up, and serve on the Board of the Children First Action Fund – a 501 C4 organization created to amplify the voice of children in Pennsylvania politics.


Location: Jefferson Educational Society - 3207 State Street, Erie, PA 16508

Date/Time: Friday, April 12 at Noon

Admission: FREE, optional $5 boxed lunch (please register 48 in advance for lunch)

Parking: lot behind building, State Street, 33rd Street, 32nd Street, French Street

Donna Cooper and Kate Phillips 

Donna Cooper, M.P.A., M.I.M.

Prior to Children First, Donna was a senior fellow at the respected national think tank, the Center for American Progress, where she led the Center’s research on early childhood education, public infrastructure, and was a contributing researcher to the Center’s work to reduce the incidence of poverty. She served as the Secretary of Policy and Planning for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 2003–2010 where she was responsible for the state’s education, public supports, environmental and health care policy. While in that position, Donna led the development of the state’s Cover All Kids program which expanded access to affordable health care to nearly every child in the state. Donna also led the seven-year effort to boost funding for public education that increased K-12 funding by over $2 billion, and designed the state’s groundbreaking school funding formula which was enacted in 2008.


Donna was the founding Executive Director of Good Schools, a grassroots organizing campaign that successfully pushed public education to the top issue in the 2002 race for Governor. She also served as the City of Philadelphia’s Deputy Mayor of Policy and Planning from 1999–2002 where she designed and led the Greater Philadelphia Works Program, one of the nation’s largest and most successful efforts to help single mothers on welfare achieve self-sufficiency. Donna has a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, Fels Center of Government, and a master’s degree in Intercultural Management from the School for International Training. 


Kate Philips, CEO, is an accomplished, respected marketing and communications professional who cares about client experience. In her role as CEO and co-founder of Parker Phillips, she is dedicated to creating work that has both a head and a heart. Under Kate’s guidance, projects produced at Parker Philips are of the highest quality and have the ability to make an impact in the world. Much of Kate’s work at Parker Philips is focused on connections. She connects Parker Philips with the community, attracting clients who would benefit from the agency’s brand of expertise. Then, Kate assembles the best team of individuals to meet each client’s unique needs. Finally, Kate connects the client with the public, tailoring a plan to tell their story through brand identity, media outreach, and advocacy. Connections have been fundamental to Kate Philips throughout her career. She began as a TV reporter before directing communications efforts for the 2000 Census in Maryland. By meeting with residents and leaders, Kate learned about the unique needs of different communities and the importance of both data and narratives in achieving specific goals. Kate spent most of her career in the public sector on the front lines of politics and government as a spokesperson for Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and Pennsylvania Congressman Bob Brady. As chief spokesperson for Governor Rendell’s administration, she developed messages for and defended five multi-billion-dollar executive budgets. During her time as the governor’s press secretary, she directed communications for legislative achievements including: the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004; the $2.8 billion economic stimulus legislation of 2004, Growing Greener II, which established a $625 million fund to protect and preserve the Pennsylvania environment; the first increase in the Pennsylvania minimum wage in more than a decade; and the successful passage and implementation of “Cover all Kids,” which extends healthcare coverage to all Pennsylvania children. Kate earned her Bachelor of Science in Journalism at West Virginia University where she learned about the role journalism plays in the pursuit of justice. Her expertise in the field helps Kate guide clients through interactions with the media, which she understands are an essential part of the public narrative. ----- Parker Philips team has worked extensively in the government, corporate and non-profit world and we think we’ve found the right approach for us, which is basically all about our clients. The consulting world has changed significantly since we started out and our model adjusts for that. Clients are savvier and need a team who can take their project to the finish line on point, on time, and on budget. Clients are the focus. We know how to deliver value and expertise to each of our clients. You are busy running your business, so will streamline data collection and your role as much as possible. You are paying us to do a job and we’re up for it!