Letters: Masch did his job — now it's time do ours

Posted: June 08, 2012

Jennifer Cullen ("Parent Rebuffs Masch Note") misunderstood Councilman Dennis O'Brien's article about former Philly schools CFO Mike Masch.

Masch had been accused of failing to keep school-district spending under control. Councilman O'Brien pointed out, correctly, that this wasn't true. In all the years that Masch was the schools CFO, the district never spent more than it was provided by the city, state and federal governments. In fact, the district ran a small surplus each year — about 1% of its total budget.

Ms. Cullen asks why her school's budget has been so deeply cut in 2012 if the school district was running surpluses in previous years. But the answer to her question is right in Councilman O'Brien's article: In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the district ran very small surpluses — about $30 million a year. These surpluses weren't hoarded away somewhere. Each surplus was used to help balance the succeeding year's budget. But this year, state and federal funding for the district was cut 15% — over $439 million. The district's $31 million 2011 surplus was used to help close a portion of this funding gap, but a $31 million surplus can't offset $439 million in funding cuts.

When over $400M in school funding is cut, there's no alternative but to cut school budgets. Sure, it would be great to just cut the "waste" or the "fat," but it's not so simple. Look at the district's "budget in brief." It shows that 97% of the district's $2.5 billion operating budget is spent directly on schools — both district-run and charter. The entire district central-office budget is just $65M — less than 3%, half of what it was last year. So, there is no way that the district can absorb over $400 million in funding cuts without cutting school budgets.

These cuts to our public schools are a tragedy. They shouldn't have happened and need to be reversed. But it's not the CFO's fault. The school district's CFO can't print money. His job is to keep the budget balanced at whatever level of funding the school district is provided. Masch did his job. Now we have to do ours — by demanding that our schools are given enough funding that we don't have to choose between a balanced budget for our district and an adequate education for our children.

Ken Weinstein

Mt. Airy Teacher's Fund


Eat it

I am so sick of people telling me what I should eat and drink because someone else is fat.

You mean to tell me these people with behinds like an elephant's rear-end, bellies hanging out, cannot see themselves in the mirror or a store window while passing? Yet they will order a hoagie with everything, bag of chips and then a Diet Pepsi.

You know you are fat … put the junk down. Ever see the fat kids in a store? Bag of chips/cheese twist (or something on that order), cookies, Tastykakes, etc. — and that's on the way to school. What happened to breakfast?

Have you ever been in an escalator behind someone in a size 12 when it should be the other way around: size 21? Hot weather is here. Some of these "I'm so hot-and-cute" ladies (?) should be locked up. At least until the weather turns cold.

To all you health ("I know what's good for you") folks, do not try to cram your message of what to and what not to eat to me — the public. We are sick of "Big Brother/Sister," whoever, taking the taste out of dinner, lunch, etc., because folks have no willpower and cannot pull away from the table.

Has anyone noticed how so many things that used to really taste so good now taste like paper? This is all because the "Fatties" have no willpower. What next? What to wear, when to sleep, when to bathe, blow your nose? There are much, much more important things that need to be taken care of worldwide than trying to make someone move away from the plateful of food.

It's not that they don't know better; they don't care, because it's yummy.

R.M. Benston


What a waste

This week showed just why the Nutter administration needs to be more open in approving its contracts for managing trash and recycling in Philadelphia. On Monday, green groups in the city learned that the Streets Department had negotiated a contract for some kind of factory that turned trash into incinerator fuel. Details were fuzzy, but environmentalists have been wrestling with the city for so long on cutting back trash that we immediately went on the defensive.

Today, several of us spoke in City Council calling for members to hold off on approving the contracts until we had more time to review them.

Sadly, the administration squandered the time it had. Negotiations were finalized in March. That would have been a good time to bring the plan to the Solid Waste Advisory Council and vet it with its experts.

That didn't happen. In fact, the city only informally has a Solid Waste Advisory Council. We call on the mayor to officially designate members to the Council and commit to running all new contracts, regulations and laws that pertain to solid waste before the SWAC with appropriate lead time for a real discussion.

The firestorm that blew up around Waste Management's incinerator fuel factory for Northeast Philadelphia illustrated just why the Streets Department would find it could do its work better and more easily by involving the public earlier and deliberately.

Let's make a real plan to move this city to zero waste. It really is possible. Either way, we could get a lot closer than we are.

Brady Russell

Eastern Pennsylvania Director

Clean Water Action

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