Letters to the Editor: September 18, 2013

Fail­ing pub­lic schools don’t de­serve money

As a Drexel alum­nus and after read­ing “Hey Corbett, stop slash­ing school fund­ing,” I feel com­pelled to do an en­gin­eer­ing ana­lys­is of the situ­ation. A good ana­lys­is re­quires many num­bers, not just an en­roll­ment num­ber and one man’s salary.

The first num­ber is 1952, which is the last year that a Re­pub­lic­an may­or led the city of Phil­adelphia. In the 2010 gen­er­al elec­tion, Gov. Corbett got 17 per­cent of the vote in Phil­adelphia County, while his Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ent got 83 per­cent of the vote. As far as polit­ics goes, that is enough evid­ence to show Re­pub­lic­ans simply can­not win here. So why would they be com­pelled to spend more state tax money on a fail­ing school dis­trict?

The second num­ber, 18 per­cent, is the per­cent­age of the state edu­ca­tion budget that already goes to Phil­adelphia; it is the highest single amount to any county. Phil­adelphia ac­counts for 12 per­cent of the state pop­u­la­tion and 11 per­cent of pub­lic school stu­dents en­rolled in Pennsylvania. The next closest county, Al­legheny, re­ceives 8 per­cent of the state edu­ca­tion budget. Al­legheny ac­counts for 10 per­cent of the state pop­u­la­tion and 9 per­cent of the pub­lic school stu­dents. Al­though the pop­u­la­tion and stu­dent rep­res­ent­a­tion at the state level are al­most the same, Phil­adelphia gets more than twice as much as the next com­par­able county in the state.

The last num­ber is $186,044, which was May­or Nut­ter’s salary in 2009. That salary is very com­par­able to Gov. Corbett’s cur­rent salary. Nut­ter took a vol­un­tary 10-per­cent pay cut that year but does that really help the multi-mil­lion-dol­lar school de­fi­cit? 

The bot­tom line is that the state tax­pay­ers should not give more to Phil­adelphia, the most in­ef­fi­cient and fail­ing school dis­trict in the state. This is what hap­pens when elec­tions are won based purely on party af­fil­i­ation and not on prin­ciples. I agree we need a strong found­a­tion built on edu­ca­tion, but that re­quires this first ba­sic les­son: you don’t re­ward fail­ure, but you do learn from it. Not Phil­adelphia. 

Jerry Per­ese


Watch out for mo­tor­cycle riders on the road

While rid­ing around do­ing some er­rands be­fore tak­ing off to New Jer­sey, I stopped at Tar­get to pick some stuff up. 

I came out to my bike, and a lady is parked next to me with her 5-year-old son when he runs over and asks, “Is that the only mo­tor­cycle you have?” I tell him I also have a ‘57 Sportster. He im­me­di­ately climbs in­to the side hack, even us­ing the step on there for do­ing that, and puts on my hel­met. 

Mean­while, his mom is in shock see­ing the kid climb onto a 6-foot-3, 320-pound, long-haired, bearded, leath­er-clad biker’s ride.

I used the ma­gic words I al­ways do when stuff like this hap­pens, “I have grandkids. It’s cool.”

He climbed out of the side­car and in­to the saddle, so mom snapped a shot with her cell, smiled and said thanks as he hopped down and ran back over to her. 

He watched me climb on as they pulled out with a big smile on his face and all I could think was a little PR nev­er hurts, es­pe­cially when it makes some kid happy. I nev­er did catch his name, but I’m pretty sure there went a fu­ture rider.

Watch for us on the road. We’re some­body’s broth­er, hus­band, fath­er or, in my case, grand­fath­er. Just like you.

Heza­ki­ah Lev­in­son


Stop com­plain­ing about school hol­i­days

Mr. Schmidt’s rant about the schools clos­ing for Jew­ish hol­i­days is a per­fect ex­ample of ra­tion­al­ized ra­cism. To think that pub­lic clos­ings on Chris­ti­an hol­i­days are OK be­cause they are a “na­tion­al hol­i­day” and not a re­li­gious hol­i­day is prob­ably the ul­ti­mate ra­tion­al­iz­a­tion. They are na­tion­al hol­i­days be­cause they are Chris­ti­an hol­i­days, and the ma­jor­ity re­li­gion in this coun­try is Chris­tian­ity. Winter and spring break — funny they co­in­cide with Christ­mas and East­er, isn’t it? 

When I was a kid in school, no Jew­ish hol­i­days were closed days, and fish was al­ways the lunch item on a Fri­day. Ele­ment­ary school classes made Christ­mas and East­er dec­or­a­tions no mat­ter what your faith happened to be. Blue laws had stores closed on Sundays. Tell me again about sep­ar­a­tion of church and state.

Boo­hoo that someone has to make ar­range­ments to have their kids watched for one day that is a Jew­ish hol­i­day. I have to make sure mine is watched for the 10-day “breaks” they are off for your Christ­mas and East­er hol­i­days.

Fact is, there is no sep­ar­a­tion of church and state bey­ond the gov­ern­ment not de­clar­ing Chris­tian­ity the of­fi­cial re­li­gion since they ba­sic­ally shove the hol­i­days down every­one’s throat. The Con­sti­tu­tion says only they are not to es­tab­lish an of­fi­cial re­li­gion, not that they can’t fa­vor one over all the oth­ers.

Schools and all oth­er pub­lic ser­vices shouldn’t close at all for any re­li­gion. People who want to keep their kids home for a hol­i­day is fine since that is their leg­al right. 

Ac­cord­ing to the Hand­book for Pub­lic School Stu­dents in Pennsylvania, page 22, and I quote, “You do not have to call out sick or of­fer any oth­er ex­cuse for tak­ing oc­ca­sion­al re­li­gious hol­i­days. Pennsylvania school law re­quires school of­fi­cials to ex­cuse stu­dents for re­li­gious hol­i­days when re­ques­ted by a par­ent and pro­hib­its school of­fi­cials from pen­al­iz­ing stu­dents for those ab­sences. So they shouldn’t count against your per­fect at­tend­ance re­cord. The only ex­cep­tion to this rule is that the hol­i­days can­not be so fre­quent that they mean you aren’t at­tend­ing school full time. So, for in­stance, Muslim stu­dents can­not take off every Fri­day, even though that is their holy day.”

Heza­ki­ah Lev­in­son


Cath­ol­ic schools are the best op­tion

Mr. Schmidt, if you want your son in school for Jew­ish hol­i­days, make the sac­ri­fice (since you state you’re a Chris­ti­an) and send him to an Arch­dioces­an high school. 

My wife and I have two chil­dren in Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School and love it. We make many fin­an­cial sac­ri­fices to send our kids to Cath­ol­ic school, but it is well worth it. The kids are dis­cip­lined and re­ceive a tre­mend­ous edu­ca­tion. You have three very good high schools with­in 20 minutes of Fox Chase: Fath­er Judge, Arch­bish­op Ry­an and Arch­bish­op Wood. 

I just wish these people who send their kids to charter schools would be hon­est about their reas­on­ing, that charter schools are free just like the rest of the lousy pub­lic schools in this city.

Ger­ald Eck


Should schools be open on Christ­mas?

Steve Schmidt’s let­ter calls for a “sep­ar­a­tion of church and state” when schools are closed for Rosh Hasha­nah. If that is true, then shouldn’t schools also be open for Christ­mas and East­er, which are Chris­ti­an hol­i­days, even though they are called winter break and spring break? 

Steve states it very well, “However, I have a prob­lem with a pub­licly fun­ded school be­ing closed for a re­li­gious hol­i­day.” 

Then he can send in a note ex­cus­ing his son for a re­li­gious hol­i­day to ob­serve his be­liefs and “make up for the work missed.”

May­er Krain

Mod­ena Park

Chained CPI is a loser 

A flawed policy ini­ti­at­ive called the Chained CPI is gain­ing steam in Wash­ing­ton budget talks that would short­change Pennsylvani­ans who re­ceive fed­er­al be­ne­fits such as So­cial Se­cur­ity and fed­er­al an­nu­it­ies by low-balling their an­nu­al cost-of-liv­ing ad­just­ments (COLAs). 

Chained CPI sup­port­ers have tried to min­im­ize the con­sequences it will have on seni­ors, re­tired fed­er­al em­ploy­ees and vet­er­ans by call­ing it a “tech­nic­al ad­just­ment” or “bet­ter meas­ure of in­fla­tion.”

When you cut through the rhet­or­ic, the truth is that the Chained CPI is an ad­just­ment only in that it means smal­ler COLAs each year. It hurts every Amer­ic­an — par­tic­u­larly our most vul­ner­able — in a ma­jor way that wor­sens over time. How would the switch to the Chained CPI hurt an Amer­ic­an cit­izen who re­ceives the av­er­age $15,000 an­nu­al So­cial Se­cur­ity be­ne­fit? Over 25 years, Chained CPI would rob the seni­or of more than $23,000. Just think of how many coupons that seni­or would have to clip to make up for the loss of $23,000 over his/her re­tired years. For many fed­er­al an­nu­it­ants who don’t re­ceive So­cial Se­cur­ity, the im­pact is even great­er. Over 25 years, the av­er­age fed­er­al re­tir­ee would see a loss of $48,000.

I urge Pennsylvania’s law­makers to re­ject the Chained CPI and provide Amer­ica’s seni­ors, re­tired vet­er­ans and pub­lic ser­vants and in­di­vidu­als with dis­ab­il­it­ies the in­come pro­tec­tion they have earned and de­serve.

Joseph Toner


School dis­trict wastes tax­pay­er money 

Mary Con­rad, after read­ing your let­ter to Gov. Corbett, I also laughed for a very, very long time. Did you ever stop to think that maybe the gov­ernor real­ized what all the city politi­cians, prob­ably 90 per­cent Demo­crats, couldn’t fig­ure out? That dump­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in­to a school dis­trict that con­tinu­ally and miser­ably fails is not the an­swer? 

That you men­tioned “wast­ing tax­pay­er money” had me al­most in tears, too. Be­cause the pub­lic schools in Phil­adelphia are in such a shambles, my only op­tion is Cath­ol­ic school for my chil­dren. And I even feed them be­fore school and brown bag a lunch for them so the tax­pay­ers don’t have to. 

How about we stop re­ward­ing the people who con­trib­ute the least? Where and when do we make people re­spons­ible for their ac­tions? When does the middle-class tax­pay­er get a break? Why is my fam­ily buy­ing break­fast and lunch for half the kids in this city while their moms are out get­ting a new tat­too or a man­i­cure? When you can an­swer these ques­tions hon­estly, then maybe we can talk about how not to waste all that tax­pay­er money.

Fran­cis M. Palmer


City schools need help

We write again on be­half of the Home and School As­so­ci­ation of Cent­ral High School of Phil­adelphia. Cent­ral is one of the premi­er mag­net schools of the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia, and one of its largest, edu­cat­ing 2,400 young people from every ZIP Code in the city.

But all the city schools, re­gard­less of their size, his­tory, mis­sion or suc­cess, are fa­cing an enorm­ous crisis year in the mak­ing, and if the cur­rent tra­ject­ory is not re­versed, the po­ten­tial to ir­re­par­ably dam­age the fu­ture of the city. Simply put, the city schools and the 150,000 chil­dren they serve have been sys­tem­at­ic­ally vic­tim­ized by politi­cians at every level of state and city gov­ern­ment for far too long, and it must stop. In­deed, dam­age already has been done; our city’s young people are watch­ing and have got­ten the mes­sage loud and clear that they are not a pri­or­ity. It seems that every year, the school dis­trict is forced to come hat in hand to beg for the money it needs just to provide the poorest ex­cuse for an edu­ca­tion for most of the dis­trict’s stu­dents. We are fo­cus­ing on find­ing just enough money for the schools merely to open. Mak­ing im­prove­ments in city schools has long since dropped from the dia­logue.

This can­not con­tin­ue if Phil­adelphia has any hope of achiev­ing its po­ten­tial. Cer­tainly, we need to find the money to open the schools, and the polit­ic­al fin­ger-point­ing and games con­cern­ing where that money comes from must cease im­me­di­ately. That, however, is not nearly enough. We need to as­sure long-term, stable fund­ing for the schools from the state (es­pe­cially) and the city, so in­stead of fo­cus­ing on the sur­viv­al of the school sys­tem, we can turn our at­ten­tion to im­prov­ing the school sys­tem.

The stakes here can­not be over­stated. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren are at is­sue. These chil­dren can either be edu­cated to suc­ceed, or be left to fail. If we choose the lat­ter by con­tinu­ing to treat the schools as we have, we will all pay the price. Young fam­il­ies with the op­tion will con­tin­ue to flee the city, busi­nesses will con­tin­ue to loc­ate else­where when they can­not find edu­cated work­ers, and the city will be left with a lar­ger pop­u­la­tion of needy, un­educated adults to sup­port. Our calls for fully and fairly fun­ded pub­lic schools have not been heeded to date. Today, we do noth­ing less than de­mand that our elec­ted of­fi­cials in Har­ris­burg and in Phil­adelphia take all steps ne­ces­sary for all city schools to provide qual­ity edu­ca­tion­al and ex­tra­cur­ricular pro­gram­ming. We de­mand it now. Noth­ing is more im­port­ant.

Lisa Kal­las, Crispin Gar­dens

Emily Ad­e­shig­bin, West Mount Airy

Co-Pres­id­ents, Cent­ral High School Home and School As­so­ci­ation

Per­ils of in­ter­ven­tion in Syr­ia and Egypt

Early in our na­tion’s his­tory, Wash­ing­ton and Jef­fer­son warned against in­ter­ven­tions in oth­er na­tions’ af­fairs.

This does not mean isol­a­tion­ism, just prudence in choos­ing in­to which is­sue to in­volve our na­tion. A few days ago, pre­vi­ously clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion was re­leased by our gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ting that the demo­crat­ic­ally elec­ted prime min­is­ter of Ir­an was de­posed by a CIA-or­ches­trated coup in 1953 to keep oil prices down for Great Bri­tain. The Shah was in­stalled. He was bru­tal to his people and, in 1979, the re­li­gious fan­at­ics took over, held 52 host­ages for 444 days and later were be­hind killing 241 Mar­ines in Beirut. Now, the Ir­a­ni­an re­gime seeks nuc­le­ar cap­ab­il­ity and funds ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions like Hezbol­lah and Hamas. It would seem we blundered.

We lost 58,000 mil­it­ary dead in Vi­et­nam in what most his­tor­i­ans con­sider was a civil war and in which our na­tion­al in­terest was not at stake. The total cost of that war was close to a tril­lion dol­lars, a mil­lion mil­lion, money that could have been used to re­pair roads, help with health care and fund schools. Un­less we raise taxes, the in­ev­it­able costs of a Syr­i­an or Egyp­tian in­ter­ven­tion will come from bor­row­ing and in­creas­ing our na­tion­al debt or tak­ing money from edu­ca­tion, health care, en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion and So­cial Se­cur­ity.

The war against Sad­dam Hus­sein in Ir­aq, based on claims of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, which most ex­perts now claim was un­true, cost us thou­sands of dead and close to $3 tril­lion.

Every day the news­pa­pers de­scribe sui­cide “mar­tyrs”, battles in the streets and car bomb­ings in Libya, Egypt, Syr­ia, Afgh­anistan and so on.

Egyp­tians call for the re­turn of the elec­ted Muslim Broth­er­hood and the over­throw of the mil­it­ary, neither of which is Amer­ica’s friend, and both of whom will in­cite their pub­lic as they blame the U.S. for any bad out­come. It is a no-win situ­ation. When the Syr­i­an re­gime uses pois­on­ous gas on its own ci­vil­ians, the world asks what is the U.S. go­ing to do about it. Why is Amer­ic­an blood and treas­ure sac­ri­ficed by those who con­sider the U.S. to be the po­lice­man of the world. Now Obama is con­sid­er­ing fir­ing mis­siles, which will kill in­no­cents, and the sur­viv­ors will blame us. At­tack­ing Syr­ia won’t re­duce the vi­ol­ence — it will only es­cal­ate it with dev­ast­at­ing con­sequences for Syr­i­ans and Amer­ic­ans, just as happened in Ir­aq. If Syr­ia launches a mis­sile at­tack against our only trust­worthy ally in the re­gion, Is­rael, its re­tali­ation will surely draw us in­to the con­flict. When the USSR be­came bogged down in Afgh­anistan, the res­ult cost the Rus­si­ans their em­pire, and the forces that we sup­plied against the USSR morph­ed in­to Al Qaeda sup­port­ers. Ill-ad­vised pro­grams like des­troy­ing opi­um poppy fields drove farm­ers from their only cash crop to feed their fam­ily in­to the arms of our en­emies, hardly an out­come that we an­ti­cip­ated or that be­nefited our na­tion.

Agreed, the whole is­sue is quite com­plex and should be de­cided on a case-by-case eval­u­ation. Mean­while, would it not be wiser if we dealt in a neut­ral man­ner with who­ever is in power, un­less our vi­tal in­terests are proven bey­ond a shad­ow of a doubt to be in jeop­ardy?

Mel Flit­ter


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