ISSUE | NEW CHARTERS

Focus on oversight before expansion

As the son of a Philadelphia teacher, a graduate of a public school, and a dean at a public charter school, I appreciate the important role different types of schools play. I don't see a difference between me and fellow educators in traditional public schools. We all want our students to excel.

Yet for that to happen, we must put aside differences, rebuild trust, and advocate for a sustainable solution to the city schools crisis. A key component involves putting the brakes on large-scale charter school expansion until we can stabilize School District finances and implement better ways of overseeing public charter schools. If successful as a candidate for City Council, I pledge to convene a task force to develop such a blueprint.

In the current crop of charter applicants, many have proven track records. But drastically expanding charters will divert needed resources from existing schools when they are barely scraping by.

|Isaiah Thomas, Philadelphia

ISSUE | TESTING

Sparking kindling, not young minds

As an educator for 12 years, currently substitute teaching, I know there is much consternation regarding the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, testing ("Parents saying no to state exams," Feb. 15). Friends complain about the new math their elementary students are learning, and I have seen sample problems from the eighth-grade tests. And I have taken the practice tests for both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 so that I may better understand what students are up against.

Well, all the claims that these tests are ridiculous are absolutely true. I have very high standards for my students. I want every single one of my charges to fully understand the material presented, and I want to teach them something that is a critical tool for solving real-world problems. The PARCC test does nothing to advance these goals.

While I understand that rigor is essential in raising the next generation to have a firm grasp of numeracy, this test would be perfectly acceptable if it were to be used to measure the aptitude of, say, the top 2 percent of mathematically gifted students. For anything else, the sample tests I have seen are practically useless and would be best suited for starting a fire in my fireplace.

|Susan Rathgeber, Evesham

ISSUE | STATE STORES

Drink up, comrade

State Sen. Christine Tartagilone makes the case to enhance the State Store system for the financial benefits of taxpayers ("Raise a glass to modernization," Feb. 15).

Continuing on her theme of Harrisburg running a normally private business, I think the state should take over Comcast, PNC, and Vanguard. Their profits will provide billions in benefits for taxpayers, allowing us to upgrade schools, provide free health care, and fix crumbling bridges and roads. I cannot understand why this has not been tried before. Oh, wait, it has: It's called communism. How did that work out?

|Richard Holstein, West Chester rholstein@comcast.net

ISSUE | HOMETOWN HOOPS

Great outing for those Temple-made and not

I appreciate Bob Brookover's addressing poor attendance at the Liacouras Center ("Do fans of the Owls give a hoot?" Feb. 12). Temple University's basketball squad is an exciting team in a storied program. However, despite a huge alumni base, the numbers don't add up. Yet I take my son, 6, and daughter, 10, to almost every game - weeknights and weekends. The arena is accessible. I can buy four tickets for the price of one pro event. The experience is exciting and family-friendly. And for anyone who hasn't been to the campus in a while, it is a different world from my days as an undergrad and law student in the mid-1980s.

Go, Owls. More importantly, Owls fans should go to a game.

|Micah Buchdahl, Moorestown

ISSUE | ECONOMY

How about an in-touch leader for Philly Fed?

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia picks its next president, the decision is being made behind closed doors. Last year, a coalition of community-based organizations asked for an honest discourse on the election process. The request was denied.

The Fed president has a major impact on the local and national economy, but corporate decision-makers live different lives from most. We would like the key decision-makers at the local Federal Reserve to come on a tour of the real Philadelphia; hear what it's like surviving on minimum-wage jobs, listen to the voices of the long-term unemployed, or come talk to small-business owners and hear whether the economy has really recovered.

|Kendra Brooks, ACTION United Pennsylvania; and Kati Sipp, Working Families Organization, Philadelphia

ISSUE | PENSION BOOST

Priorities make sense to those who sacrificed

Both Mayor Nutter and mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham recently criticized former City Councilman Jim Kenney for introducing a law that will give city pensioners like me our first benefit increase in seven years.

A lot has changed since the day I got my first pension check 21 years ago, after my husband, a firefighter, died in the line of duty. My son, who turned 7 the day after his father passed away, is now a firefighter. The price of gas went up, my property taxes increased, and more.

All of City Council, with the exception of Kenney, voted for DROP, which cost the city millions in extra pension costs. Abraham took a sizable DROP payment in addition to a monthly pension. In a year, Nutter will walk out of City Hall with his pension - one that has a built-in cost-of-living adjustment.

One thing that didn't change in the last 21 years was the size of my survivor's pension. Nutter and Abraham may accuse Kenney of pandering and being fiscally irresponsible, but to the families who sacrificed for the city and watched politicians collect ever-increasing pensions, Kenney's budget priorities appear very much in order.

|Kathleen Redmond, Willow Grove