Archive: June, 2013
I am a mother, grandmother, and aunt, and I work as a lead food-service worker in the kitchen at Olney Elementary. But this past week, I didn't eat a bite of food or take a sip of juice.
On Monday, I joined Fast for Safe Schools, which for nearly two weeks has brought attention to the dangers of budget cuts facing our children. We brought our protest right to the steps of Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia office.
More than 1,200 student-safety staff have been laid off, and unless the state acts on funding, they won't return to schools in the fall. These student-safety staff, also known as noontime aides, help create a community in our schools, a family. They build relationships with students, help defuse conflicts, and make sure kids aren't bullied. I am worried about what will happen in September without them.
As James Gandolfini was mourned Thursday, New Jersey flags were flying at half-staff in his honor. But seriously? That should be reserved for heroes like firefighters, police, Marines, and soldiers - not actors. Gov. Christie's decision cheapened the meaning of flying flags at half-staff.
Dale J. Porter, Philadelphia
More often than anyone would like, news-gathering and commentary can take on a whisper-down-the-lane quality where a misstatement or omission grows into a glaring inaccuracy. That's certainly the case with an Inquirer editorial Wednesday ("Ministry of information").
Neither an earlier news story nor the editorial mentioned that District Attorney Seth Williams has assembled a grand jury to investigate the building collapse at 22d and Market Streets. The release of any documents or details by the city must now await the conclusion of that inquiry. This fact apparently didn't fit with the agenda, which was to accuse my administration of a pattern of "stonewalling."
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The U.S. Senate immigration bill is tough but fair. It would bring 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows and require them to pay fines, fees, taxes, learn English and civics, and take a nearly 10-year path to getting their green card. It would also secure the border. The Congressional Budget Office indicates the bill will decrease the federal budget deficit by $197 billion in the next 10 years due to the additional collections of income and payroll taxes from undocumented workers on the tough but fair path to citizenship.
This bill took great time and effort for senators to craft a compromise. However, last week border-security amendments were offered by Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.) and David Vitter (R., La.) with the aim of upsetting the balance and stalling the legislation. The Thune-Vitter amendments would prevent undocumented immigrants from being granted provisional status until half of a 700-mile reinforced, double-layered fence along the southern border is constructed, and biometric fingerprint and iris scan technology is installed, respectively. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), by voting for these poison-pill proposals, placed unachievable benchmarks on the path to citizenship.
The fate of millions shouldn't be dependent on circumstances beyond their control. Toomey knows this bill is a balance, but backed Thune and Vitter to appease his tea-party base. Throughout our country's history, immigrants have arrived on the bottom rung and moved up. Toomey's vote indicates he is comfortable keeping this generation of immigrants in a permanent underclass.
It was disappointing that a Philadelphia venue cancelled a Cold Cave/Boyd Rice performance this month due to public pressure over Rice’s philosophy and politics.
By his own admission, Rice is a right-leaning member of the Church of Satan organization, a fascist, elitist, and Social Darwinist (the strong must rule over the weak, the clever over the strong). What he is not is racist, antisemitic, or homophobic.
One need only review his career, collaborations, and interviews. As an artist, Rice was one of the most innovative of people in the late 70s and early 80s, inventing the noise music genre and, arguably, the analog sampler.
While two recent pieces that ran on The Inquirer opinion pages aptly note the school district’s current dire financial situation, they turn a blind eye to the more critical need: sustaining our schools so that today’s and tomorrow’s children receive a quality public education.
The teachers and school employees would take exception to the notion that they aren’t willing to sacrifice for their students. As an editorial — and a recent article by Inquirer staff writer Alfred Lubrano — noted, teachers have for years acted as agents to mitigate the impact of poverty on many of our school children. Not only do they purchase classroom supplies not provided by the district, but food, clothing and other essential items. They do this in schools that represent the most challenging working and learning conditions, for significantly less pay than educators in surrounding districts.
In spite of state Education Secretary William E. Harner’s assertion about that Gov. Corbett has increased education spending in Pennsylvania, our state ranks 44th in education spending nationwide. Additionally, most of Harner’s ideas for teacher workrule reforms would do nothing to improve teaching and learning. For example, extending the hours in schools that lack essential materials, resources and programs while eliminating activities like band, clubs, and sports does not result in a better education; a longer school day does not necessarily equal a better school day.
New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is right to raise the college grade-point-average requirement for new teachers from the current minimum of 2.75 to 3.0. A higher GPA requirement not only would promote teachers with strong academic records, but also deter less-viable candidates who may find it difficult to meet student needs in this much-demanding profession.
If the goal of these policies, however, is to attract better candidates into the teaching labor market, concomitant reform of teacher pay will go further than a mere GPA requirement. As an urban, non-unionized, charter school science teacher, I teach a high-need subject in a low-income setting. But I am paid considerably less and enjoy less job security than either my urban or suburban colleagues. Not surprisingly, the research shows that nearly half of new math and science teachers leave urban teaching within the first five years citing poor pay as one of the top two factors.
Reforming the teaching supply pool will require the state to analyze many factors - teacher education programs, teacher pay, unions, evaluations, and more. Piecemeal reforms will not only distort the teacher labor market, but do little to improve quality.
As important as it is to find out the truth about the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative organizations to enforce tax laws, more emphasis should be placed on the broken political campaign finance system that led to the IRS's unacceptable behavior.
The nation's laws on who and what can contribute campaign money are so porous almost any person, group, or company can spend any amount to influence voters - even if what they say is a lie. Loopholes open the door for foreign interests to get involved, too.
Dark-money groups spent more than $300 million to influence the 2012 elections, much of it through so-called social welfare groups. The IRS got into trouble trying to figure out which groups were more political than social.