Pre-K celebration is for all children

As the executive director of Diversified Community Services, an organization that delivers quality prekindergarten and was invited to participate in Mayor Kenney's pre-K move-up celebration, I was taken aback by Melissa Murray Bailey's critical commentary about an event that is meant to celebrate all children for successful completion of quality pre-K ("Don't use misleading images to sell city pre-K plan," Friday). The event is meant to recognize children who have participated in the diverse pre-K programs regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.

More than 90 percent of the children at Diversified's "STAR 4"-rated centers qualify for subsidies. Our families should not be deprived of quality pre-K options because they cannot afford them. Schwartz Preschool students may "speak in coherent sentences" and read and write, but so does almost every child who attends quality pre-K at Diversified.

The mayor understands the tremendous learning power of children from birth to 5 years old. Bailey understands this, too - that is why she sends her child to pre-K. So why does she want to deprive low-income children of the same opportunity she affords her child?

An event that celebrates parents for their dedication to their children's education should be celebrated, not disparaged because a private preschool happened to be included in the festivities.

|Otis L. Bullock Jr., executive director, Diversified Community Services, Philadelphia,

Make pre-K available to poor families

Melissa Murray Bailey's commentary opposing the use of her daughter's private school as an example of quality prekindergarten is offensive and shows a lack of vision for someone who had hoped to lead Philadelphia - the poorest large city in America. Some low-income parents may not have shelves filled with books but do read to their children every day, often courtesy of the public libraries, which also would benefit from sugary-beverage-tax revenue. They might not be able to pay a babysitter for weekly trips to museums and libraries, but they do take their children to museums, often courtesy of Art-Reach's ACCESS Admission program.

Just because a pre-K program isn't the posh Schwartz Preschool in Society Hill doesn't mean it's not a quality program that can deliver life-changing benefits and drastically improve a child's chance of academic success.

Quality pre-K for children whose parents cannot afford a private provider is exactly what our city should aspire to. It is what Council can make happen with the soda tax. Perhaps media coverage of a pre-K move-up day is silly, but Council finding a way to fund quality pre-K is incredibly serious and exciting.

|Kathy Fisher, policy manager, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, Philadelphia

Time for a vote

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown's slapdash proposal of a "healthy-beverages tax credit" underscores the lack of thought and preparation behind her proposed beverage-container tax ("Kenney flexible on sugary-drink tax," Friday). The tax credit, apparently designed to appease some of the councilwoman's colleagues, would require enormous effort by small businesses (which lack manpower) and the city (which struggles to administer our current tax system) for an insignificant benefit. The credit is a nonstarter, like the container tax itself.

Rather than wasting time with such distractions, City Council should focus on the sugary-beverage tax that has been evaluated and debated for months. The time has come for Council President Darrell Clarke and each Council member to take a position on whether to have a sugary-beverage tax and, if so, at what rate.

|Jeremy Spiegel, Philadelphia