Josh Cornfield should regret making commitments he couldn't keep and he should get his facts straight before taking Mike Masch to task for "dropping the ball."
Masch's accomplishments are well-known by Philadelphians. In 2002, he prevented Ex-Gov. Schweiker and Ex-Rep. John Perzel from giving the entire Philly school system to the for-profit Edison Schools. Cornfield's characterization does not match up with Masch's historically verifiable and well-earned reputation.
The accusations of Masch's missteps as CFO are also in error:
Federal stimulus dollars were supposed to keep ongoing programs running despite revenue shortfalls by the state governments. How can you create a five-year financial plan when every revenue dollar is a target of state and federal politicians? Harrisburg would express little confidence in anyone's numbers for Philadelphia because they just don't want to pay anything. (Look at Chester.)
The school district's financial problems are a result of an unprecedented 20 percent decline, which no CFO could have prevented.
Cornfield's criticisms of Masch are baseless and naive.
Josh Cornfield's comments regarding Michael Masch and the Philadelphia school situation have the ring of simplistic scapegoating when most Philadelphians know that there is a much larger and longer story, with tragedy heaped upon tragedy, and a long list of so-called professionals and politicians who participated and now want out quietly, and some new ones that want in.
Who are the officials who signed the contract with Ackerman that a first-year law student would have rejected? Did that advice come from Ballard, as usual? Failed management at many levels in the system includes racial and ethnic polarization that reverberates like something from the 1960s in the South, while high-school graduation rates are claimed to have improved, but with the asterisk "in five years." State Rep. Dwight Evans strong-arms the Commission in the back room over a contract with a large campaign contributor, and they do as they are told. These are examples of business as usual in a school system with a 30-year checkered past, and Mr. Cornfield is going to lay the blame at the feet of the new budget director?
Obviously, Michael Masch was handed a fiscal grenade with the pin already pulled in a city that is a political cesspool at so many levels. Apparently, he did what most budget directors do and used what was at hand to balance, and anticipated that his announced serious shortfalls for the future would not fall on deaf ears.
Many on the Commission have resigned, Ackerman's gone with a suitcase full of cash, and instead of doing a critical exposé of the history of those folks, we use the old tried-and-true Philadelphia political trick of blaming someone whose name is hardly known, as if he could have prevented all of it.
Where is the PICA board that has authority from the state to take all manner of steps in oversight over Philadelphia fiscal affairs as a result of the financial train wrecks of the past and present? After the fact, our Controller Alan Butkovitz restates the obvious and apparently has an agenda of his own for the future.
The journalists of this city should be demanding a lot more investigation into any number of individuals and politicians who crafted that unbalanced empire of wasteful spending, inside dealing and political power and ran it into the ground. Nowhere near enough has been said about Ackerman, the board and the political hierarchy who pushed the buttons all along.
James H. Foster
I join you in frustration and fury about the school district's budget woes, but I think that your attack on Mike Masch was over the top. It is clear that all of us should have been insisting for a long time that we need to fund our schools adequately.
The last thing we need is personal attacks blaming individuals for problems that are serious and occurring throughout the country and the commonwealth. Philadelphia is not alone in being unable to balance its books. We need more funding and we need more accountability for the funding from everyone. One-time stimulus dollars, state severe budget cuts, unemployment and a troubled economy led to many of the problems we see in Philadelphia, York, Erie, Harrisburg and many others.
I join you in the anger, but we need to put it where the fault lies - in a state and a citizenry that doesn't support its schools adequately.
Shelly D. Yanoff
Public Citizens for Children and Youth