Letters to the Editor

Youth unrest like the 2010 South Street flash mob is one byproduct of failing city schools.
Youth unrest like the 2010 South Street flash mob is one byproduct of failing city schools. (Inquirer archive)
Posted: April 30, 2013

Invest in a flash-mob antidote

Time is running out for the current generation of children enrolled in underperforming city schools. We cannot be satisfied with the current 57 percent high school graduation rate - a significant number of whom are graduating at eighth-grade reading and math levels. We cannot be satisfied that only 10 percent of all Philadelphia public school students will graduate from college. What future will these children have?

The good news is that Philadelphia-area businesses - both large and small - can change the course of an economically disadvantaged child, family, and community at little or no cost. The state's Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program provides scholarships to low-income and working-class children who live near the lowest-performing schools. Businesses can make a donation to scholarship organizations and receive a 90 percent tax credit, with $36 million still available in credits for 2013 ( www.newpa.com/ostc).

The recent Center City teen melee and, even worse, the shooting at Overbrook High School, were reminders that we can't afford to wait for school improvement with viable options available.

Ina B. Lipman, executive director, Children's Scholarship Fund, Philadelphia

Make a bookworm, change a life

The annual cost to the nation of low-literacy skills is pegged at $225 billion, with one in five American adults unable to read at a fifth-grade level. These individuals are unable to hold a job, fill out an application, read a bus map, and face the likelihood of poverty.

In Philadelphia, nearly half of all adults - 550,000 people - struggle with this problem. They are not lazy or unmotivated. Rather, many have learning disabilities, attended poor schools, or had parents who could not read.

Free adult basic education classes can help, but without a job and money to pay for transportation or child care, many potential students miss out. Federal funding for adult literacy education is decreasing and there are not enough volunteer literacy tutors to meet the demand here. But the devastating impact of low-literacy makes it worthwhile to volunteer to help with literacy classes and to raise awareness.

Kayla Morin, Elizabethtown, morink@etown.edu

Just don't do it, City Council

Our fearless City Council wants Nike to explain why the company canceled sales to some stores. But that's really none of its business. A company can sell its products to anyone. Besides, doesn't Council have more pressing issues like taxes, schools, salaries for firemen, or a myriad of other problems facing the city? Interfering with a supplier's business practices only makes Council's constituents feel as if someone cares.

Joe Orenstein, Philadelphia, Joe4189@verizon.net

Varying views on life's beginnings

There are vast differences between a fetus pre- and post-viability, which is the fundamental basis for the time frames enshrined in our legal system by Roe v. Wade ("Logic of abortion industry," April 18). There are also vast differences in the standing of the health of an unborn child vs. the health of a woman among different religions. Catholic belief may hold that life begins at conception, but Jewish belief most certainly does not. Is Catholic belief to be ensconced in law while Jewish belief is effectively banned? That is fundamentally wrong in a pluralistic society founded on the right of religious freedom.

Joe Magid, Wynnewood

EPA nominee good for Pa.

In March, President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to be the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and she now awaits confirmation from the Senate. Washington leaders should keep their eye on the ball and stick to issues that matter during confirmation hearings, and not get bogged down by discussions of "secret government e-mail addresses" that were used to promote efficiency ("Tofu? ToWhit? Senators discuss EPA e-mail aliases," April 11).

McCarthy has been a dedicated nonpartisan professional under five different Republican governors, in addition to her leadership of EPA's clean-air division during Obama's first term. Partisan politics should be set aside, and McCarthy's confirmation should move forward.

The nominee's extensive accomplishments at the EPA illustrate her ability to understand the needs of states like Pennsylvania. McCarthy instituted the first-ever national limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. These new standards are estimated to prevent up to 530 premature deaths in this state, while creating up to $4.4 billion in health benefits by 2016. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee should quickly vote to approve McCarthy's nomination.

Saleem Chapman, Philadelphia

U.S. drug store open, fully stocked

In reporting on the cost and access to medicine in the United States, it's particularly crucial to get the facts right since patients are impacted ("Soaring prices keep Leukemia drugs from patients, experts say," April 25). Despite misperceptions, spending on medicine has grown at historically low rates for a sustained period.

Medicines are only about 10 percent of all health-care spending, but for that investment significantly improves quality and length of life and helps control health-care costs by avoiding acute care, such as hospitalizations. And 80 percent of prescriptions filled are generics.

International comparisons can mislead. The U.S. is based on markets in which very large, powerful purchasers negotiate savings from pharmaceutical companies, not government price fixing. Additionally, the U.S. system rewards innovation - a main reason why biopharmaceutical research and development moved from Europe, where there are price controls. Our system allows patients wider choice and quicker access to new medicines.

Matthew Bennett, senior vice president, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Washington

Two, three, four times a day

It's dismaying that former broadcaster Michael Smerconish could display such sour grapes for the industry that has given him some fame and probably some fortune ("In polarized broadcast world, time to turn the dial," April 14). While I wish the former syndicated broadcast talk-show host well in his move to satellite radio, I hope he will come back to his heralded roots.

Local radio is an indispensable part of the communities we serve. It's much more than making a few additional bucks or getting a better deal to abandon the dial briefly. It's about community service and value. Every day across the Garden State and, indeed, America, local radio and television stations serve in extraordinary ways: raising millions of dollars for charity, aiding children with Amber Alerts, and creating awareness about important health and safety issues. It's about our intimate connection with our audiences, and our appreciation for their needs.

Paul S. Rotella, president and chief executive officer, New Jersey Broadcasters Association, Jamesburg

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