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

Lawndale

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

Rhawnhurst

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

Rhawnhurst

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

Somerton

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

Bridesburg

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

Somerton

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

Somerton