Roebuck: House GOP charter-school bill trying to wish away Gov. Wolf

Bill could saddle Phila. with hundreds of millions in new costs

HARRISBURG, March 4 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said the charter-school bill House Republicans passed today (H.B. 530) doesn't contain much reform and deserves a "D" grade.


"There's very little reform in this partisan charter-school bill and in fact, some of its provisions would actually take Pennsylvania backwards. It would weaken local control of charters, which are public schools and funded with tax dollars," Roebuck said.  


"One major way the bill would weaken local control is by stacking the state charter school appeals board, which has generally been even-handed and approved about 50 percent of the charter school applications that reach it. The bill's $4 million in savings for Philadelphia would probably be wiped out by hundreds of millions of dollars in new costs for charter schools.


"Keep your $4 million and give me a board that will be fair!


"This bill could also cost local property taxpayers money and jobs by giving charter schools right of first refusal on unused school properties that the community might want to put to another use, such as locating a new business there.


"Governor Wolf's budget proposes reasonable limits on cyber charter school payments that would return $160 million in savings per year to school districts -- permanently. This House Republican bill would only provide about $24 million in savings – and $7 million of that would expire after just two years, even though the savings involve services that cyber schools will never provide, such as food services.


"That's a bad deal for local property taxpayers. In addition, the state provides a share of school funding, so declining $136 million in savings is stunning when the state has a $2 billion deficit. Some high-quality charter schools have fulfilled the law's stated mission to provide innovation, but we still shouldn't overpay.


"House Republicans rejected common-sense improvements to the bill both in the Education Committee and the full House, and that's no way to achieve real reform that can be signed into law by the new Democratic governor – instead in this bill they're trying to cut him out of the process as much as possible. This bill is not even a realistic negotiating position. They cannot wish away Governor Wolf or his constitutional veto authority."