Further into privatization abyss

The School Reform Commission, after a decade of mismanagement, has finally admitted what those who know something about education have claimed for 10 years: The SRC's model doesn't work ("Students deserve radical reform," Sunday). Instead of finally listening to what will work, the SRC has jumped off the deep end, going even further into the abyss of privatization.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is blameless. At the last contract negotiation, then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman was so pleased that she said she wanted to kiss Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. No less than Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, hailed it as a groundbreaking agreement. Guess what? It didn't work. Those of us who know education knew it wouldn't. What works is making schools safe, a concept that the SRC fails to acknowledge, despite a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by The Inquirer noting the problem.

Now, charter schools will feast on taxpayer dollars while they try to educate only those whose behaviors are conducive to education. In other words, "No Child Left Behind" has become "We Know Exactly Who Will Be Left Behind." These children likely will be shuffled from school to school until they are old enough to drop out, or worse.

The sad thing is that Philadelphia, a city on the verge of rebirth, is going to become a city left behind, as parents with means will choose not to raise children here.

Keith Newman, Philadelphia, knwmn@yahoo.com

Treat educators with respect

Education is about building a better tomorrow. We can start today by treating the educators justly and with dignity and respect ("New Jersey state college faculties protest pay, benefit proposals," Thursday).

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO and its one million members stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the American Federation of Teachers who, for more than a year, have been negotiating with administration officials to obtain a fair contract. Officials are insisting on keeping the wages of thousands of working men and women stagnant and forcing staff to use their own vacation days whenever the school they work for decides to close. These demands are unprecedented. They will make it harder for thousands of working men and women to make ends meet and to support the middle-class families who depend on them.

The administration claims that it doesn't have the resources to offer staff a fair contract. Let's be clear: This is a crisis created by the persistent underfunding of New Jersey's colleges and universities. While our state is among the most affluent in the nation, it ranks 47th when it comes to funding higher education. Adjusted for inflation, the last 13 years have seen a 46.5 percent cut in funding for our schools. Now this administration is looking to apply the same shortsightedness to the very people we're counting on to equip our young people for the challenges of tomorrow.

Charles Wowkanech, president, New Jersey State AFL-CIO, Ocean City

Real threat of students' debt

Mark Zandi says taxpayers are "on the hook" if students don't repay their loans, but then adds, "The real threat posed by student lending is that it has burdened young people with debt" ("A real education is the cost of learning, but the price is steep," Sunday)

Speaking for the taxpayers of this nation — and half of us still are taxpayers — the "real threat" is to us, not the students, most of whom will earn hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars over their lifetimes, and could pay back their loans. The real threat is a president who says he and his wife couldn't afford to repay their student loans when they were earning more than a quarter million dollars a year. The Obamas are setting a terrible example for today's young people, and threatening the taxpayers with having to foot that bill.

Morris Olitsky, Havertown

Chaperones for agents?

Secret Service agents are going to be assigned chaperones ("A minder for Secret Service agents," Sunday)? And be required to attend ethics classes? Is this high school? Fire the guilty agents and issue a no-nonsense standard-of-conduct policy. Expecting the American public to pay for chaperones and ethics classes stretches my trust in our government's ability to make reasonable decisions.

Ruth Laks, Yardley