State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said the Republican charter and cyber charter school bill reported out of the committee this week deserves a D-plus grade because it doesn't include nearly enough taxpayer savings or financial reforms.
"I have introduced a bill that would save $365 million in the first year and include more financial accountability and more comprehensive reforms to these publicly funded schools. The Republican bill doesn't even come close, and I and other Democrats plan to offer amendments to it in the full House. Without changes, this bill deserves a D-plus because it doesn't save nearly enough," Roebuck said.
Roebuck is pleased the Republican bill, H.B. 618, would remove a "double dip" for cyber charter schools that lets them receive extra funding for pension costs, but he is disappointed the bill would not make the same change to brick-and-mortar charter schools, of which Pennsylvania has nearly 10 times as many. Roebuck also questioned why the cyber-only change would be made for only two years while a commission studies funding - "this needs to be fixed and we should fix it," he said.
Roebuck also is pleased the Republican bill would require a teacher evaluation system for charter and cyber charter school bills similar to the one for other publicly funded schools, and that another bill the committee reported out today (H.B. 980) would apply the same limits on budget surpluses at charter and cyber charter schools already in place for traditional public school districts.
However, Roebuck said H.B. 618 falls short in several areas, including:
* It has weak provisions regarding charter school management organizations' fiscal transparency and conflict of interest issues.
* It still doesn't address special education overpayments.
* It still doesn't include a year-end budget reconciliation between the charter school tuition paid by taxpayers and the schools' actual costs.
* It lacks a ban on using taxpayer funding for advertising by charter and cyber charter schools.
Submitted by the office of State Rep. James Roebuck