City has a spending problem

Mayor Nutter's latest revenue initiative to help the Philadelphia School District is as light on clear thinking and common sense as it is silent on the accountability of the people who caused it: former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and Michael Masch, the district's former business officer ("More cash or no school, official says," Wednesday).

My alternative solution is as simple as it is fair: Collect all outstanding receivables from tax-delinquent people and corporations, which should bring in more than $450 million.

But liberals don't see it that way. They would rather resort to fear tactics, saying schools won't open unless more than $90 million of additional revenue is realized. Philadelphia already has more revenue streams than most countries, including taxes on property, sales, wages, and real estate transfers. Enough!

For years, city government has had a spending problem. If left unchecked, the financial fabric of Philadelphia will become like much of Europe's. If tax assessments are adjusted under the mayor's proposal, many property owners will see their real estate taxes more than double. That's not fair to honest, hardworking folks, especially during a recession.

I pay my taxes and I expect my neighbors to do the same. I also expect the city to live within its means. The people need to wise up and demand to be treated fairly. The financial imperative of our time demands nothing less.

Jonathan R. Verlin, teacher, South Philadelphia High School, Philadelphia, teacherjrv@msn.com

Plan would destroy city schools

What planet are you from? All you do in your editorial in response to the catastrophic plan to destroy public education in Philadelphia is whine about whether the SRC should have appointed a new superintendent before coming out with this devastating proposal ("SRC plan also about next chief," April 25).

This plan is not about educating the city's children. It is about privatizing public education. Your editorial is a direct assault on unions. Once again, union members are supposed to lie down and give up our hard-fought salaries and benefits for the people at the top who made horrendously bad economic decisions.

You say, "One also has to question whether it makes sense to cut the charters' funding." But not the neighborhood public schools' funding? Many charters are not performing as well as neighborhood schools, and others are tangled up in investigations into their finances.

And of course the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has entered into a Great Schools Compact with the city. The archdiocese is after a state voucher bill so we can help fund their religious schools.

Karel Kilimnik, Philadelphia

Essential parts of education

Music and art are essential courses in public schools. Every student, no matter his grade-point average, can benefit from these programs. Not every student needs advanced algebra or calculus. If the public schools want to educate students about numbers, why not offer courses in money management? That would be useful!

Music and art therapy are valuable tools in dealing with special-needs children. The music of Mozart can soothe a crying baby, and there is scientific evidence that it helps retain study material.

Music and arts programs in public schools are essential to providing a balanced education. Even if students don't use the arts and music as the basis for a career, they will have learned ways to appreciate the arts.

Jeanne C. Hoff, Norristown, mgkgne@comcast.net

Learning begins at home

I cannot place the primary blame for Philadelphia's broken system of education on the School District, or its funding, administration, or teachers. The core of the problem is not budgets, teachers, or district leadership, but parents and students.

What organization, school staff, or highly trained, dedicated teacher is able to withstand the onslaught of students untrained in the basics of human society: Do not lie; do not steal; show compassion and respect for others?

In too many homes, the words please and thank you are rarely spoken, and parents spit and swear whenever they feel the urge. Just one student from a dysfunctional home will disrupt a classroom, and there is no government strong enough, organized enough, or rich enough to win this battle.

James Boxmeyer, Philadelphia

Voters have had enough

Thank you for reporting on former Gov. Ed Rendell's so-called Taxpayers' Relief Act ("Closing of Pennsylvania school-tax loopholes has had questionable effect," Monday). Like much about Rendell, Act 1 is a long-winded scam aimed mostly at deluding taxpayers.

Here, living under the thumb of Rose Tree Media School District, school-tax increases have consistently overrun the cost-of-living index. Trying to learn how this tax money is spent becomes a forensic exploration into how the administration obscures, manipulates, and hides the data. Visibility is not in this administration's vocabulary. And digging into details of the expenditures that make up the grand totals the district publishes will require a court order because this administration reveals nothing willingly.

A revolt is brewing because of the abusive and wasteful habits of the School District and the rapacious gluttony of the teachers' unions that control it. And then there is that hole in the pension fund we are expected to fill, which threatens our homes. Voters are fed up.

William H. Evans, Media

Disappointing coverage

I was disappointed with your coverage of the Occupy Philadelphia May Day events ("Occupy, authorities clash," Wednesday). Instead of focusing on any number of the important causes this progressive movement is championing, you sensationalized stories about strippers and a street fight.

The Occupy movement deserves better. In a few short months, it has changed the national political conversation to highlight the gross disparity in wealth that is threatening the foundation of our democracy. It has introduced key terms (the 99 percent and the 1 percent) into the political lexicon, which now nicely frame the campaigns of the two presidential candidates: President Obama, the populist, and Mitt Romney, the protector of the privileged wealthy.

The movement has done much to move our democracy forward and it will do much more, with or without you.

Steve Cickay, Newtown

Interrogations saved lives

The Inquirer says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "dismissed the notion that torture produced the intelligence that led to bin Laden's lair" ("Torture didn't lead us to bin Laden," Wednesday). Yet when questioned on NBC Nightly News last week, Panetta said, "Clearly, some of [the information] came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees."

Information obtained in enhanced interrogations has aided U.S. intelligence in the war against terrorism. The CIA confirmed in 2009 that waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed helped thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles. Ex-CIA director George Tenet said enhanced interrogation yielded more information about terrorists and their attack plans than everything gained from the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency put together. Even Dennis Blair, President Obama's director of national intelligence, stated that it yielded "high-value information."

Nick O'Dell, Phoenixville