Kevin Lee, who identifies himself as an RN and Democratic Candidate for the
Pennsylvania State House of Representatives for the 163rd District wrote a Letter to the Editor mentioning me and a recent column. Find it below with my comments.
"To the Times:
"I am writing in reference to Gil Spencer’s column from Feb. 12 regarding the treatment of Jahmir Ricks in the Delaware County prison. Mr. Spencer’s comments suggest that young Mr. Ricks is actually better off somehow in jail."
(Guilty. I think Jahmir is better off for now in jail than he would be at home, in his community. He did, after all, allegedly stab his brother to death. Does Nurse Lee think he would be better off back in a public school classroom? Hmmm. Let's see.)
"In an apparent swipe at Charlotte Hummel, a Democratic school director from Lansdowne for the William Penn School District, Mr. Spencer states Jahmir seems to be learning better in prison then in the WPSD."
(Well, if Jahmir's lawyer Mike Malloy can be believed, Jahmir is getting straight As under the guidance of the Intermediate Unit teachers who tutor him at the prison. Malloy told me Jahmir is a smart kid but had become something of a discipline problem in the WPSD with his grades falling off the last couple of years. Does Nurse Lee know this to be untrue?)
"He also suggests 'some children' need a more structured environment."
(That is one of the more obvious truths I have written in my 25 years as a newspaper columnist.)
"He also suggests it is a shame that Antwan Ricks had to die and Jahmir had to go to prison to have that better instruction and a more structured environment than the William Penn School District has to offer."
(It IS a shame.)
"As a resident of Lansdowne, I am disturbed by the comments that suggest our children would have a better education in jail than in our communities."
(Whoa there, Nurse Lee. I said "some children," Jahmir, obviously being one of them.)
"I am sure the hundreds of teachers and employees, thousands of students and parents and the residents of the school district would respectfully disagree with Mr. Spencer’s assessment."
(Really? I haven't heard from any of them. Are hundreds of WPSD teachers clamoring to have Jahmir sprung from jail and put back in their classrooms? If they are, could the good nurse provide some of their names?)
"These comments, which I hope were just off the cuff and not intentionally offensive, are reminiscent of Barbara Bush’s comments made in Houston after the Katrina disaster. She said people in the shelters, after losing everything, were somehow better off because they were 'underprivileged' before Katrina."
(Sorry, I don't get it.)
The facts do show that the William Penn School District and many districts like it are struggling. They are struggling with unfunded mandates from Harrisburg and the federal government. They are struggling with a historic lack of funding and support from the government officials that are supposed to be representing our needs in the General Assembly. And they are struggling due to social issues exacerbated by poor economic policies, the antiquated tax code and a lack of real involvement from our representatives in Harrisburg.
(So that's why Jahmir stabbed his brother? Allegedly.)
Every child in Pennsylvania deserves a quality education. The current practice of using the value of local property, in addition to one’s zip code, to determine the amount of funding for a child’s education is ineffective, outdated and dangerous.
(Not as dangerous as playing a video game with the Ricks boys.)
Columnists like Mr. Spencer and our state representatives and senators should be making this issue priority one.
(I get it. Nurse Lee wants more money for the William Penn School District. Fair enough. He's free to ask. But lack of money isn't William Penn's biggest problem. What the district is really struggling with is an anti-learning street culture that is brought into schools and makes it difficult for teachers to teach and children to learn.
(None other than philanthropist Oprah Winfrey has practically given up trying to help urban schools in the U.S. because, as she said, "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there." And so she spent $40 million starting a girls' academy in South Africa. That problem of instilling the "need to learn" seems to have eluded Nurse Lee but he goes with his speechifying.)
The time has come to change this state. A well-funded, cost-efficient, quality public school system benefits the entire commonwealth.
It allows for all children, not just those from privileged backgrounds, to receive an education.
(Well, it's not very cost efficient having to educate Jahmir in prison, but I'm all for it.)
Until we have the will to change what happens in Harrisburg, we will continue to see a decline in our education system and our communities.
(I wonder, just how many more millions of dollars William Penn School District will need to stop the decline? Nurse Lee doesn't say.)
Our community will continue to pay escalating property taxes to fund a state system that is broken while some members of the General Assembly vote to raise its own pay and pension.
(Nurse, I'm with you here. They shouldn't have done that.)
Mark Twain was quoted that for every public school that closed, we would have to open a jail.
(Mark Twain also said, "In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards."
The Ricks family might be in a very different place today if we stopped playing politics and put more emphasis on fixing the problems in our schools instead of ignoring them.
(The Ricks family might be in a very different place today if the boys had stopped playing video games and had more adult supervision at home. Let's not be ridiculous here. Nurse Lee is running for the state legislature allegedly to help solve the problem of inequitable school funding. He doesn't offer an opinion on whether 14-year-old Jahmir should be tried as a juvenile or an adult. Based on what I know, I think he should be tried as a juvenile. But reasonable people can disagree on that. I don't think reasonable people can disagree that Jahmir needs to be in a structured and corrective setting. So should Nurse Lee. And I don't think the state house is it.)