ISSUE | SCHOOL FUNDING

Old-school answer

What's with all the hoopla about U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's epiphany and declaration that there exists this great funding divide between well-to-do schools and poor schools, with Pennsylvania leading the pack ("Pa. tops the nation in school-spending gap," March 14)? I thought money didn't matter to racing to the top.

Since No Child Left Behind was enacted, reform was all about enabling choice - called the civil rights issue of the day - and accountability. The panacea was to turn schools into a free market with competitive forces weeding out poor performers with testing, stigmatization, reconstitution, and closures. Even the neediest students could learn under the most destitute conditions.

As for the funding divide, that's hardly new. Could an actual element of school funding support be thrown into the reform mix now?

|Jeff Rosenberg, Wyncote

ISSUE | JUDGE ACCUSED

Not in character

I have never had any reason to question Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal's integrity, competence, or intelligence. I look forward to her complete exoneration by the Judicial Conduct Board ("Case of corruption in discipline filing," March 17).

|Sharon Barr, Philadelphia

ISSUE | SPORTSMANSHIP

Other ways to win

The heartbreak of Camden High's loss in the state championship boys' high school basketball game last week was clear ("It's déjà vu all over again for Panthers," March 16). While joining a group of Bishop Eustace grads for dinner, planning our 50th reunion, and discussing the game and South Jersey sports in general, I noted something much greater than the pain of that loss come shining through.

One of Camden's star players, Brad Hawkins, missed significant playing time due to foul trouble. But he was quoted as saying, "It was tough, but I got myself in that situation." No blame placed on the officials or anyone else. This was a young man who understood the concept of accountability, and that defines what a champion is all about.

|Joseph Ridgway, Marlton, jridgwayesq@yahoo.com

ISSUE | PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

Fresh leaders who can look back, and ahead

Inga Saffron's reporting on the University of Pennsylvania's Pennovation Center and the realization of innovative community parks, including turning the Reading Railroad viaduct into a high-line park, is very good news ("Cheaper, more dramatic, and funkier space for start-ups," March 20). Philadelphia has turned the corner from a city with potential to a dynamic urban center brimming with ideas. From health-care changes to sports, things are really happening.

However, while we embrace the current and innovative, we must take care to preserve the best of our past. The loss of the Boyd Theater is a tragedy. Future generations will never be able to experience the magnificence and historical significance of that place.

Our newfound self-confidence also should extend to the upcoming elections for mayor and City Council. We need fresh blood, creative minds, and experienced innovators to keep up the positive momentum.

|Sandra Bressler, Philadelphia, sgbressler@comcast.net

ISSUE | STATE BUDGET

Tax-happy governor risks getting nothing

Just as with his other tax proposals, Gov. Wolf just can't keep it simple and reasonable with his natural-gas severance tax. Tax increases (income, sales), tax expansions (sales and natural gas), and promises of tax decreases (property or city wage taxes and corporate income) are just too many, too much, and too difficult to quantify. Compounding the tax calculus is Mayor Nutter's plan to increase property taxes by 9.4 percent.

|P. Boyle, Philadelphia

ISSUE | PENSIONS

Years in the making, years in the fixing

Many in the debate over public pensions are calling the issue a crisis, which invokes the need for immediate action. But it's a contrived crisis. Instead of rushing to move employees into an inferior pension system, it would be better to forge a long-term solution that avoids a true crisis in the future.

Over the past 30 years, there has been a movement to cut taxes and rein in government spending. The former has been popular and the latter has been nonexistent. In order to fund these cuts, especially for corporations, Pennsylvania lawmakers skipped out on contributions to teacher and state employee pension plans. It should be noted that the contributions by the teachers and other workers continued.

Now the bill has come due and the only question should be, how do we make this right? We have a moral obligation to live up to our promises, not run from them or create a situation down the line that causes us to renege on obligations. There are a lot of proposals on the table. Some are proposing the discredited 401(k) proposals again. Independent actuaries say this option would cost $40 billion in transition costs and decimate retirement security.

Let's keep in mind that these decisions will affect the lives of the teachers we and our children loved, the bus drivers who delivered us safely to school, and other workers who selflessly provide services that make our lives livable. They deserve a long-term solution, not some quick fix in the midst of a fake crisis atmosphere.

|Bruce B. Rader, associate professor of finance, Temple University, Philadelphia