AS THE DEBATE about charter schools continues in Philadelphia, the question must be asked: Why are parents leaving the traditional public schools en masse?

To stop the exodus, is the answer simply to shut down the charter school expansion? Why not listen to the voice of parents who seem to be voting with their feet?

What do these parents feel that their children are receiving in charter schools that is not afforded to them in traditional public schools? We would certainly hope that it would be the academics. But sometimes it is, in part, a welcoming attitude, a stated belief that there is a real desire for your child to succeed and respect shown for parents and students, something that in my years of visiting a variety of public schools is often missing in many neighborhood schools.

As it relates to academics, let's compare graduation rates and SAT scores to really get a hard-look picture of the school landscape. How do the 17 special-admission schools compare to the neighborhood high-school scores? And, where do the charter schools stand on those stats? These should be the real indicators for having an informed discussion regarding public education, not simply charter versus public. The debate should be about which schools are succeeding and which schools are failing. Until some of these questions are answered, I'm not so sure we are having a real discussion/debate about the future of education in Philadelphia.

The loudest voices seem to be emanating from the workers, i.e., teachers, administrators and union membership. However, the voice of the most critically affected cohort - the parents and students - is barely heard. But while that voice is weak, the action is steadily growing, as the numbers of children on waiting lists for charter schools mount.

One of the ways for me to better understand the strength of a school or school district is to find out what schools the children of those charged with the education of our children attend. As a child, I attended a demonstration school, Logan Elementary. I guess it would be favorably compared to Masterman today. What I clearly remembered was that the children of the principal and many of teachers attended the highly rated school.

So, for me, that has always been a benchmark: Where do the children of the teachers/administrators attend school? Do their children attend the handful of high-achieving public schools in the city? Do they attend private school? Do they even live in Philadelphia, and, if not, therefore their children are enrolled in suburban schools? If you see the workers at Burger King cross the street to grab a bite at McDonald's everyday, would that not give you pause?

So let's be a little - no, a lot - more honest in this debate. Are we really saying that the city's failing school system is OK for those who have no other choice - and by doing so, are we not cutting off the opportunities or choices for those whose potential may never be realized?

Karen Warrington

Philadelphia

I am a product of Philadelphia public schools and I had many great teachers back in the days from 1967-79. But another tax increase will only chase more people to the suburbs and hurt our senior citizens and poor people.

Increasing funding will not and has not improved the results of our school children.

Dear Superintendent William Hite: What percentage of young men and women who were graduated from our schools since these tax increases started are working? How much money do they earn per annum? Compare this to the past, before these incessant tax increases and AVI.

The only thing that counts is the end result: jobs. And income.

If we decentralize the district, the next step will be to sell them off in parcels the same way we franchised off cable TV in Philadelphia to private entities, and the same way the city tried to sell PGW.

Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice shame on us.

Myles Gordon

Taxpayers Association of Philadelphia

Mayor Nutter's policies have driven hard-working residents out of the city and ruined once thriving neighborhoods. His latest plea to raise property taxes, coming on the heels of his back-door reassessments, will only drive more working-class-neighborhood-sustaining residents to surrounding townships and states where taxes are now on par with the city.

Another tax hike is evidence that Nutter and his schools superintendent have no real solution to move the city and struggling school district forward.

Timothy T. Gass

Somerton