ISSUE | EDUCATION

Providing for those who most need help

After years of debate about the correct balance of federal vs. local influence in public education, Congress' passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents a breakthrough, providing local schools with more flexibility to decide what works best for our students ("Changes in new school law," Friday).

And it came about because of something we rarely see in Washington these days - bipartisan agreement.

Equally important is new language tucked into the law for a program known as Title I. It's a program that invests critical resources to educate the poorest children in our communities. ESSA specifically allows Title I funding for "integrated student supports" that seek to remove the educational barriers that low-income students so often endure: hunger, homelessness, and lack of a caring adult in their lives.

Communities in Schools Pennsylvania has been providing this kind of support for more than 20 years, and our 97 percent stayed-in-school rate leaves no doubt that all students can flourish when their social, emotional, and physical needs are met.

Congress has sent a clear message that K-12 education should be one priority we all can agree on, especially when it comes to educational opportunities for our most vulnerable young people.

|Ryan Riley, president, Communities in Schools Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, ryan@cisofpa.org

ISSUE | JUDICIARY

What took so long?

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) last week asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) for a vote on Luis Felipe Restrepo, the highly qualified federal judge and nominee for the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ("Senate planning vote on Restrepo," Thursday). This is welcome, long-overdue news.

In the fall of 2014, Toomey and Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D., Pa.) enthusiastically supported the nomination. Yet Restrepo is still awaiting a full vote in the Senate, now scheduled for Jan. 11.

Throughout numerous delays, news outlets chided Toomey for not working to move the nomination forward. Only two weeks before the Senate was scheduled to recess for the year did Toomey speak up.

Shame on him for being complicit in the GOP game of obstruction. He has been doing his constituents a disservice.

|John Neurohr, cochair, Why Courts Matter - Pa. Coalition, Valencia

ISSUE | CENTER CITY

He made his mark

Gary Levitt, of Sonder Levitt Advertising, made an enormous impact not reflected in his obituary ("Gary Levitt, ad man whose slogans had a big impact in Phila.," Wednesday). In 1982,

I became the radio voice for his slogan, "There's No Shopping Center like Shopping Center City," and for 18 years, I was honored to drive this message as president emeritus of the Center City Proprietors Association.

It's said that what you stand for, you can achieve, and given the vibrant and bustling streetscape of Center City today, Levitt's slogan got the job done. Rest in peace, Gary Levitt - Center City has reaped what you sowed.

|Nancy Gold, Ardmore, holdshirtmaker@aol.com

ISSUE | POLICE MISCONDUCT

Victims' voices must be heard

I was shocked to see the landmark verdict against Daniel Holtzclaw on the bottom of Page A4 of Saturday's paper ("Okla. officer guilty of rape"). The placement and cursory treatment of the verdict was the final stroke in

The Inquirer's gross lack of trial coverage and speaks to a longer history of negligible coverage of the black female victims of corrupt law enforcement.

Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer, was convicted Thursday of raping or sexually assaulting eight black women. He thoroughly abused his position by making sham police stops in poor neighborhoods and forcing women into sex acts by threatening them with arrest on false charges if they did not comply. The all-white jury brought justice to the victims, whose testimony was marked by fear of police reprisal and the greatest fear of witness-victims: that they would not be believed.

I challenge The Inquirer to do justice to the victims in this case - to the women whose voices were heard and believed, and who can encourage others to come forward and speak only if we hear their stories.

|Carla Willard; associate professor, American studies; Franklin and Marshall College; Philadelphia; carla.willard@fandm.edu

ISSUE | BILL COSBY

Innocent until proven guilty

Nothing like beating up on a man when he's down. That's what a sparsely attended Temple University Faculty Senate did in voting to "condemn" Bill Cosby for accusations that have never been tested in a court of law ("Temple faculty unit condemns Cosby," Thursday).

Cosby has already been forced to resign from Temple's Board of Trustees - a seat he held for 32 years - and his honorary doctorate from Temple is under attack. Drexel has revoked the doctorate it granted him, and his name has been expunged from programs he endowed elsewhere.

Cosby may be guilty of all the offenses attributed to him or more. Or he may be guilty of fewer, if any. Most of the charges were not made until the statute of limitations for prosecuting them had expired, thus depriving him of any defense but denial.

None of us has any legal basis for judging Cosby. What cannot be disputed, though, is that his long record of public service and generosity, particularly toward African American education, is matched by few. Whether or not his private conduct ultimately makes him a tragic figure, to treat him now as a pariah reflects more on his attackers than on him.

|Robert Zaller, history professor, Drexel University, Bala Cynwyd, rzaller@msn.com

ISSUE | RUTGERS

Strong academics can boost football

If Rutgers University truly wants to turn its football program around, it must stress the ideal of the student athlete. Recent scandals have tarnished not only the football team but the entire university.

Rutgers football may not have accumulated wins like some football powerhouses. Year after year, however, the team was a big winner in academic standing compared with other universities - until now.

The new coach and athletic director, and the university president, must strive to regain Rutgers' academic respect.

Parents of highly touted recruits will weigh academics when helping their children choose a college. Education is the primary mission of a college, not being a gateway to a lucrative pro-football career, which is a long shot even for the most talented players.

|Lawrence Uniglicht, Galloway, lrunig@gmail.com

ISSUE | CAMPAIGN 2016

Michelle Obama for president

I just had an idea for a Democratic nominee: Michelle Obama. Like Hillary Clinton, she has spent years at the right hand of the leader of the free world. She also appears to have no scandalous baggage and, with her degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, is educated as well as or better than any of the Republicans. And she seems to be a deep thinker and humanitarian. She has Donald Trump beat hands down.

|Chris Mark, Philadelphia