Roebuck to introduce Wolf blueprint for school changes

HARRISBURG – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, will introduce legislation to carry out Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed changes to the state school code.

"After four years of cuts and underfunding of K-12 and higher education, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly elected Governor Wolf to put us back on the right track in education. I'm proud to work with the governor and House leadership to introduce this blueprint of necessary changes to the school code to help our kids," Roebuck said.

Wolf has proposed a $400 million increase in the basic education subsidy to K-12 schools -- the largest in Pennsylvania history – to restore Accountability Block Grant and Educational Assistance Program funds cut under the Corbett administration. Under this plan, school districts would receive reimbursement for about 10 percent of their mandatory charter school tuition payments. Also, more resources would be made available to help close the funding gap that resulted from cuts in the basic education subsidy dating to the 2010-11 school year.

Roebuck said House Democrats' main budget bill will also include Wolf's proposed $100 million increase in the Special Education Subsidy to further Pennsylvania’s transition to the formula enacted in 2014, "which was made possible through the hard work of the bipartisan legislative Special Education Funding Commission. My bill would incorporate that formula as a permanent component of the Public School Code – our state’s main education law. My bill would also increase funding for special education services provided through the Intermediate Units."

Roebuck also said, "In addition to these historic investments, my legislation would amend the Public School Code to promote accountability in education, by establishing provisions to ensure the public’s return on investment in education and maximize the impact of new education funding in a way that will foster student achievement by rewarding school districts with increases in basic education funding, in exchange for their investment in evidence-based programs.

"In another key area, my bill would ensure fairness to all students by creating a funding formula for cyber charter schools to address regular education tuition rates and special education tuition rates. The proposed new regular education tuition of $5,950 is based on the highest cost of several high-performing, comparable Intermediate Unit online education programs – and is bolstered by 10 percent to reflect administrative and overhead costs that cyber charter schools reasonably incur. The rate would be adjusted for inflation each year. The special education tuition rate applies the formula recommended by the Special Education Funding Commission to cyber charter schools.

"We need to make bold investments in public education and special education programs, and promote fairness and accountability in education spending. This is critical to ensuring Pennsylvania meets its responsibility to educate our students today so that they are prepared to compete in the global marketplace of tomorrow."