ISSUE | STATE BUDGET

Wolf's bold plan

After four years of budget cuts that devastated Philadelphia's schools and forced property-tax hikes in nearly every district, Gov. Wolf is offering a lifeline ("School officials pleased by Wolf budget proposal," March 3). Imposing a severance tax on gas drillers and closing corporate loopholes would restore school funding and reduce taxes on the rest of us. The legislature should take it.

As the governor said, the state is never going to get stronger if we make its schools weaker. Philadelphia is the perfect example. Closing schools and cramming kids into crowded classrooms is not the answer.

Strengthening the economy and city starts with making education a higher priority again. Kids need teachers, nurses, libraries, counselors, proper textbooks, and a fighting chance.

We need sustainable community schools, not costly new charters. Wolf offers a bold plan, and that's what we need.

|Ron Whitehorne, coordinator, Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, Philadelphia

ISSUE | RIDE TO SCHOOL

Bus is the danger

Supporters of school bus stop-arm cameras say they're targeting negligent motorists. But most student riders killed over the last 10 years were killed by the bus, not by a passing motorist.

|James C. Walker, National Motorists Association Foundation, Ann Arbor, Mich.

ISSUE | DOGS IN PARKS

Owners unleashed

Caroline Wiseblood Meline's Wissahickon Valley hiking adventure is a reminder that there really is so much to see in the woods that is not found in the city ("The adventure of an icy trail, dog by your side," March 9). Sadly, that too often includes off-leash dogs.

Off-leash dogs often charge me and my leashed dogs while I'm hiking. Typically, the offending owner yells from yards away not to worry about his friendly but snarling dog.

Parents walking with children, people who are truly terrified of dogs, and leash-law-abiding citizens should not have to deal with dog owners who ignore regulations.

|Tom Messmer, Blue Bell, tmessmer@comcast.net

ISSUE | FIREARMS

Point the finger at rogue gun shops

It's no surprise that, as Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said, the guns used by thugs this month to kill Police Officer Robert Wilson III were bought "on the street" - no surprise given Mayor Nutter's declaration that 100 percent of the handguns used in homicides in Philadelphia in 2013 and recovered were illegal.

According to federal authorities, such guns reach the street and the hands of killers mainly through straw buying - namely, when someone who can pass a background check buys a gun from a retailer for someone who cannot. Both a retailer willing to look the other way and a straw buyer are necessary. Without both, far fewer guns would ever reach the street. Therefore, aren't these gun retailers as guilty as the shooters who pull the trigger?

If Ramsey knows the identity of the gun retailer who sold the guns used to kill Wilson, he should tell us. Then the public can exert pressure on such rogue gun shops to force them either to stop selling to those who prey on the public or to shut down.

|Bryan Miller, executive director, Heeding God's Call, Philadelphia, bryanheeding@gmail.com

High-risk habit: guns in the home

New reports say conclusively and unsurprisingly that a gun in the home greatly increases the chance of suicide. The tragic death of a 13-year-old in suburban Philadelphia recently is an example.

This only confirms what logic tells us: Firearms proliferation is a threat to everyone. Just say no to guns in the home.

|William Brosius, Sellersville

ISSUE | JOBS

Clean slate needed to get teens hired

Richard Greenwald describes an important effort to bring jobs to at-risk youths ("Curb violence by finding jobs for city youths," March 10). To make this program meaningful, though, Pennsylvania must change its juvenile-record laws.

In Philadelphia, there are as many as 3,000 youths in the juvenile-justice system. Even with adequate job training and programming, teens routinely face barriers to employment because of their records.

One survey of more than 3,000 metropolitan-area establishments showed that most employers eschew hiring someone with a criminal history. The Juvenile Law Center's recent national study of how states protect juvenile records ranked Pennsylvania in the bottom 30 percent. The state's juvenile-justice system is intended to build competence and rehabilitate youths so that they can mature into productive citizens. Juvenile records impede these goals.

Pennsylvania must establish a system of swift and barrier-free expungement that ensures more youths a second chance.

|Riya Saha Shah, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia

ISSUE | HEATLH INSURANCE

Congress shouldn't mess with success

Federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program runs out soon. With Republican majorities in Congress, I fear that a great program for Pennsylvania children will be put on the chopping block. I hope federal support for CHIP is continued.

|Ross Anderson, Haverford Township, andersw@gmail.com