ISSUE | PUNISHMENT

Fiscally prudent tact: Scrap death row

Gov. Corbett last week signed an execution warrant for the man convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in a 1996 bank robbery. Putting aside moral and ethical concerns, and the possibility in some cases of executing an innocent person, plus the fact that the death penalty does not deter murder, the state cannot afford the luxury of wasting millions on these capital cases.

The death penalty is more expensive - actually, 10 times more expensive - than a sentence of life without parole. In 1972, New Jersey discovered the extra cost was $4.2 million per death sentence, and then abolished the practice.

The millions that could be saved by abolishing the death penalty could go a long way toward helping the state's underfunded schools and crumbling infrastructure.

|Ralph D. Bloch, Warrington, ralphdbloch@yahoo.com

ISSUE | OBJECTIVITY

Rightward tilt

The Inquirer has definitely become a conservative paper. Saturday's paper had a picture supposed to represent 100 supporters of President Obama's immigration plan, but instead highlighted one person with a "Barack Obama, Dictator" sign. I know this won't be published, because it's pro-Obama.

|Thomas Skudlarek, Lansdale, tlskudlarek@verizon.net

ISSUE | IMMIGRATION

One GOP hand claps

I'm glad that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions 3d, the junior senator from the historic seat of racial equality, the great state of Alabama, and the probable new chairman of the budget committee, has taken a fiscally responsible stand against President Obama's executive action dealing with immigration reform. I must have missed the headlines when Sen. Sessions caviled against the millions of dollars paid to lawyers to conduct the Benghazi Hillary Hunt, which found less than nothing.

Thomas Paine told the weak of heart to "lead, follow, or get out of the way." The president has made his choice. Congress has made the shrewd strategic decision to sue the president. The idea that Obama has taken this executive action without the appropriate legal guidance is absurd. He's asked Congress for a show of hands on immigration; Congress has elected to sit on them.

|Kenneth M. Foti, Malvern

ISSUE | CHARTERS

Chalk talk did traditional schools disservice

Janine Yass uses data irresponsibly to make her case for public-school choice ("The facts on charter schools," Nov. 23). First, she says 40,000 Philadelphia students are on charter waiting lists. That number counts as multiple students a single student's applications to different charters, and it counts students who have enrolled in other schools. Then Yass argues that because charters get 29 percent of the School District budget, though they enroll one-third of students, they are therefore more cost-effective. But that supposes the rest of the budget is spent on district schools, which is not the case. The district's large, non-school costs include, for instance, more than $100 million annually for private and alternative-school students and nearly $300 million annually for debt service. Finally, Yass faults the district for spending too much on its low-performing schools without mentioning that it pays for low-performing charter schools, as well.

The challenge of serving our city's largely disadvantaged student population in the most equitable manner for all families, with limited resources, merits a more even-handed and careful treatment.

|Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent, Philadelphia School District

Alternatives not seen in well-heeled suburbs

I've yet to hear Mark Gleason, head of the Philadelphia School Partnership, or any other charter champion, explain why suburban communities are never the focal point for charter expansion ("District receives 40 applications for charters," Nov. 18). If charter schools are the best way to deliver a quality education, why are they largely absent in districts outside of urban areas? The truth is that this level of experimentation and disdain for traditional public-school education is only allowed in large, urban districts. Outside of cities like Philadelphia, you find that properly funded, managed, and staffed public schools are seen as a basic necessity, not a privilege.

|Sheth Jones, Philadelphia, syakov79@gmail.com

ISSUE | ENERGY FUTURE

Looking other way on fossil fuel drawbacks

Alex Epstein's supposedly moral argument for increasing the use of fossil fuels is itself immoral ("A case for more fossil-fuel use," Nov. 24). The Center for Industrial Progress president ignores the loss of life and environmental damage caused by leaks, spills, explosions, and mining, not to mention cleanup costs. He ignores the fact that fossil fuels are nonrenewable and will be unavailable once extracted by the dangerous and wasteful process known as fracking. And he ignores the fact that the higher cost of nonrenewables is the result of political and legislative obstacles promoted by the producers of fossil fuels. In fact, his commentary read like an eighth-grade paper that the student received a lot of help with from a parent who happened to be employed in the petrolium industry. No good teacher would be fooled.

|Dale Kinney, Bala Cynwyd

Considering the source

Since one can assume that Alex Epstein's income is dependent on his continued espousal of his anti-environmental, pro-drilling positions, his argument should be read with a dose of skepticism.

|David C. Harrison, Philadelphia, dch_law@comcast.net