Changes necessary before tax increase
In an op-ed piece on Monday ("District spent its way into massive shortfall"), Christopher Paslay discussed the Philadelphia School District's grandiose "reform" plans, which will be paid for with nonexistent funds. Worse, the results of this reform under Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman's leadership have been disappointing. Although standardized test scores are reported to have improved, this is a national trend, as school systems teach the test, not how to think.
Any tax increase by the city to fund the school system should be conditioned on the appointment of an entirely new School Reform Commission, with the new members committed not to renew Ackerman's contract. The present commission and Ackerman share responsibility for presenting a budget with a $629 million deficit. Both have acted irresponsibly. New schools were opened, but the old schools did not close. So now there are 70,000 extra seats.
David C. Harrison
Moving beyond the 'war' on drugs
According to an article on June 2 ("Major panel: Drug war failed; legalize marijuana"), the war on drugs has been lost.
The United States spends $40 billion annually on this "war." It also incarcerates 500,000 nonviolent drug offenders per year. However, drug consumption has not been reduced. In fact, the Global Commission on Drug Policy concluded in its report that between 1998 and 2008, heroin consumption increased 30 percent, while cocaine consumption increased 25 percent.
Shame on our elected officials for continuing the same failed policies year after year, while ignoring a more scientific, fiscally responsible, commonsense approach.
Msgr. Lynn failed to protect children
An article on Monday, "Priest's lawyers: Dismiss endangerment charge," says that "under Pennsylvania law, child endangerment charges may be brought against people who are supervising the welfare of children."
Msgr. William Lynn is alleged to have knowingly transferred pedophile priests to other parishes, where they continued to sexually abuse children. I see no way that he was "too far removed from children," as his lawyers say. A 2005 grand jury accused church leaders of a cover-up. Ask the children who were abused by these transferred pedophile priests what they think.
I believe Lynn committed a crime. Yes, he was following orders, but he could have said: "I can't do this and I won't." Instead, he followed the old boys' club rules.
Electoral choices are too limited
I agree with Tuesday's editorial ("Why bother?") that consolidation of elections is a good idea, but I disagree that "people might become more interested in voting if they didn't feel like they were voting all the time."
When I received my sample ballot, I looked at my options. "Vote for three," it said, and I looked to see how many candidates there were.
There were three.
This was the case in every office up for grabs. One, two, or three candidates running for the exact number of spaces open. So, on the contrary, I wouldn't mind voting four times a year if I had something to vote for.
What good is an election if there is no one to elect?
Free help for those facing foreclosure
In his column on June 3 ("What to do when foreclosure looms"), Al Heavens provided important and timely information. Participating in HUD-approved housing counseling programs offers homeowners a safeguard against the many mortgage and foreclosure scams that exist today.
In Philadelphia, there is an easy and convenient way for homeowners to get qualified, legitimate housing counseling close to home. The SaveYourHomePhilly Hotline connects homeowners with city-funded, city-approved housing counseling agencies in 28 locations all over the city. Best of all, these services are free.
The SaveYourHomePhilly Hotline number is 215-334-4663. Homeowners outside Philadelphia can find certified housing counseling agencies by calling the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency at 1-800-342-2397.
Michelle Sonsino Lewis
Communications, Office of Housing and Community Development
Teachers' union's well-funded clout
Regarding Monday's article "School voucher supporters turn up heat on opponents," it is worth noting that the Pennsylvania State Education Association is the state's most powerful special interest and spends $93 million in union dues, in addition to its PAC payroll deductions - all paid for by Pennsylvania's forgotten taxpayer - for the benefit of its members.
As a result, elected officials reward government-paid schoolteachers with high salaries, platinum pensions, and other benefits, plus tenured protection from losing their jobs. Has a schoolteacher ever gone on strike except for higher pay and more benefits?
In contrast with the self-serving political contributions of PSEA, the political contributions of most school-voucher proponents are given with no prospect of personal gain. FreedomWorks asks why Republicans are taking money from both sides when Republicans profess to be for school choice.