ISSUE | SENIORS

Caregivers needed

I applaud Gov. Wolf's plan to help more senior citizens remain safely and comfortably in their homes ("Wolf wants more Pa. seniors to get home care," Feb. 28). This plan reflects society's growing understanding that home care is humane and less expensive. It is important to recognize, however, that this plan depends on the ready availability of dedicated and competent caregivers, an availability that is impeded under current laws.

The Older Adult Protective Services Act prohibits nursing homes and home-health agencies from hiring individuals with criminal records. As a result, many excellent potential health workers are barred.

This lifetime ban has been ruled unconstitutional by Pennsylvania courts and shown to be irrational by social science research. It deprives elderly citizens of caregivers who will be needed to staff the growing field of senior care.

The governor and state legislators should revisit laws that include lifetime bans on employment without regard to an individual's rehabilitation or level of risk. The needs of senior citizens can and should be effectively balanced with people's rights to put mistakes behind them and find productive employment.

|Janet Ginzberg, senior staff attorney, Community Legal Services, Philadelphia, jginzberg@clsphila.org

ISSUE | THE CIRCUS

Wise Dumbo move

Congratulations to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus owners on their decision to retire the circus elephants ("Circus shedding elephant acts," March 6).

These marvelous, intelligent, gentle giants deserve so much more than the circus. God bless the Feld family executives who finally realized that their elephant performers should enjoy a life beyond the rings and tents.

|Frannie Rink, Lansdowne

ISSUE | PENSIONS

Easy-street critics

Don't forget that as politicians attack and underfund public workers' pension funds, their own pension benefits continue to grow. And since many will hold local, state, and even federal positions during their careers, they will receive pensions from all three.

|Dave Savage, Collingswood

ISSUE | RECYCLING

Alternatives to nuisance clothing bins

Tricia Nadolny's reporting on for-profit clothing bins highlights the need for greater transparency in the clothing recycling industry and the need for more convenient, efficient, and engaging recycling solutions ("For-profit donation bins draw complaints," Feb. 16). In most cases, when you encounter a clothing recycling bin, you can't tell who owns it or what interest it serves.

Solving the clothing bin dilemma is a twofold challenge: First, consider an alternative to mystery bins. Make clothing recycling part of weekly curbside efforts. Better yet, ask consumers to try a pickup recycling program. Second, raise awareness in schools about the personal, environmental, and economic impact of recycling for reuse. Offer curriculum-based learning that encourages behavior change.

By reusing materials or turning them into new products, we can generate jobs, reduce waste, and connect people here and throughout the world through recycling.

|Ira Baseman, president, Community Recycling, Fairless Hills

ISSUE | HEALTH CARE

There should be a doctor in the house

Although nurse practitioners serve an invaluable role in medicine, working in concert with physicians, it's important to keep in mind that the amount of training is significantly different ("Nurses can be as effective as doctors," March 3). Physicians spend four years in medical school and anywhere from three to seven years in residency and fellowships; for nurse practitioners, it's substantially less. We just cannot equate the two.

Nurse practitioners can practice independently in many cases, but the suggestion that they and can function in a capacity identical to physicians simply violates common sense.

|Mark Lopatin, M.D., chairman, Montgomery County Medical Society, Jamison

ISSUE | BILL GREEN

Major strides under ousted SRC chair

Since Bill Green joined the School Reform Commission, it has secured a 7 percent, or nearly $200 million, increase in annual funding, opened three innovative high schools, voted to close low-performing charters, overhauled its charter quality-monitoring program, and authorized new seats (albeit not enough) in some of the city's highest-performing schools ("Change at the top of SRC," March 2).

Green and his colleagues also worked to rein in costs that pull resources out of the classroom, such as interest on debt and employee health-care benefits far beyond what most public-sector workers receive. Gov. Wolf's spokesman says Green is "concerned about everything but what actually matters." If school funding, performance monitoring, and ensuring resources get to the classroom don't matter, what does?

|Mike Wang, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, Philadelphia

Green grasps for power, kids lose

When Bill Green announced that he would sue to retain the School Reform Commission chairmanship, he put the needs of Philadelphia children behind his own desire for power ("Change at the top of SRC," March 2). The time, effort, and attention that will be directed to this lawsuit hurts children and, by extension, all of us.

|Barbara Gold, M.D., Philadelphia