Philadelphia's superintendent, David Hornbeck, deserves cooperation, not castigation. Judge Doris Smith's rulings, the Annenberg Foundation's generous $50 million five-year challenge grant to the Philadelphia public schools and the $5 million response to that grant from Arco Chemical Co., Conrail, CoreStates, Greater Philadelphia First Corp., Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania Inc., Mellon PSFS and First Fidelity Bancorp. offer creditable opinions that money can make a difference to the schools.
Pennsylvanians daily pour thousands of dollars into the lottery - a very slim opportunity to strike it rich personally. Do Pennsylvanians care enough about their children - the children of Philadelphia - to gamble that a few of their dollars spent on the public school system could strike it rich for the kids, i.e., could make a real difference in the quality of their education? Do we still believe that individual efforts and contributions can help solve social problems?
If the Annenberg grant is still operative, can private donations be solicited to meet the Annenberg challenge? Any money would certainly be useful to the schools, and a large number of public contributions - whatever their size - might encourage Harrisburg to take care of Philadelphia's children as it ought. Pennsylvania has enough money to fund public city schools as they need to be funded. Hornbeck's insistence on providing services to meet the children's reasonable needs does not deserve the threat of a state takeover and his removal.
KAY Z. MYERS, Wayne
DAN CONFUSED OVER SIZE I had to laugh at Dan Geringer's column, whining: ``Every year, [Superintendent of Schools David] Hornbeck does nothing about reducing class size.''
Riiight. Come to think of it, Dan, he hasn't done much about El Nino or producing a pennant for the Phillies either. Maybe the superintendent, who has reduced class size in the early grades, should simply take out his personal checkbook and write a check for the estimated $440 million more it would cost just to build the 32-36 new schools needed to reduce class size from 30-33 down to the 17-22 that suburban teachers enjoy - not to mention the cost of hiring additional teachers. Students in one-third of Philadelphia public schools are squeezed into schoolyard portables or rental facilities, or bused to less crowded schools.
Isn't Dan confused here? It's the General Assembly that has the budget to pay for reducing class size across the state.
But the corker was Dan letting Rep. Dwight Evans complain about how long he's waited for Hornbeck to reduce class size. Unlike many of his colleagues, Evans failed to vote for last month's House bill to reduce class size. Maybe he was too busy hanging out in the governor's office making plans to spend the state's monumental surplus on something really worthwhile. Whatever that is, it's obviously not the children of Philadelphia.
STEVE EBNER, Philadelphia
BYERS' DATA QUESTIONABLE Russell Byers' column (May 12) was interesting. I appreciate reporting such a newsworthy subject. Unfortunately, I question the validity of the data.
From data supplied by American Viewpoint Inc., I interpret that public and private schools are about equal in special-education services and private school is better by 9 percent in providing extracurricular activities. The remainder of his analysis is very questionable.
* Most efficient use of education dollars: Public schools have a different administrative policy and directive.
* Being responsive to parental concerns: Unfortunately, because of poor parental involvement in public schools, this category needs improvement.
* Providing a quality education: Public schools suffer in this category because most teachers spend most of their time maintaining discipline, not teaching.
* Instilling moral values: Public schools fall short here also because teachers do not have a base to start with.
* Providing a safe school environment: Public schools try to be productive in neighborhoods besieged with drugs and crime. How do we expect the school to do what the police cannot?
* Maintaining discipline: Clearly shows what is troubling the system.
Until the politicians and public accept responsibility for correcting the problems in our public schools, it will always be a political football.
LUTHER YOUNG JR., Philadelphia
NO TWINKLE IN REP. WILLIAMS' EYE Pat Walls (letter, May 11) wrote that state Rep. Anthony Williams was only ``teasing'' the kids (``with that little laugh that makes his eyes twinkle'') about being out of school. I don't know who Pat Walls is, but she was not even there.
I am a representative of the Philadelphia Student Union and I was one of those who met with Rep. Williams on our lobby trip to Harrisburg. I do not remember once seeing a twinkle in his eyes. Daily News reporter Mensah Dean was there and reported accurately what went on.
Williams was patronizing and unwilling to take students seriously. We talked to him for a very frustrating half-hour, during which he called us selfish and shamed us for missing school.
I was enraged that we were condemned for caring about our future. We deserved the same respect that would have been given to any adult who made the effort to travel to Harrisburg to have a discussion with their legislator.
Even though most of us are not old enough to vote, we are still United States citizens, and we deserve to be represented fairly and treated with respect.
SARAH SHAPIRO, Philadelphia