Roebuck to introduce strong, bipartisan Pa. charter school reform bill

Includes $160 million in savings, 'apples to apples' teacher evaluations

HARRISBURG, June 10 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, will introduce a bipartisan bill that would carry out strong charter school reforms.

"This bill would make the reforms our students and taxpayers need. It has bipartisan support from the start, so it's more likely that Governor Wolf can and would sign it into law instead of vetoing it. The legislature and governor have a lot to get done this year and we need to work together," Roebuck said.

"There are charter schools that are innovative and provide a good education, but we must have the tools to deal with the bad apples, and we shouldn't overpay for the good ones. Our children and taxpayers deserve better."

In March, the House passed a charter-school bill (H.B. 530) on party lines. Roebuck said that bill falls short on needed reforms and oversight, would override local control and would cut Wolf out of a proposed school funding commission.

Roebuck's new bill includes:

  • Setting a tuition rate of $5,950 for each non-special-education cyber charter school student, based on the highest-spending comparable high-performing online education programs offered by Pennsylvania intermediate units. This resembles what Wolf proposed in his budget.

"This bill would return $160 million to school districts, which are largely funded by property taxes. That is a much better deal for students and taxpayers than the $21 million in savings in the previous House bill," Roebuck said.

  • Limiting charter school management organizations' fees to a maximum of 5 percent of the tuition per student enrolled.
  • Requiring a reconciliation of charter school expenditures through an annual audit, and requiring charter schools to refund any revenue in excess of its audited total expenditures to each school district that paid tuition.

Roebuck said a recent national report shows the need for these types of reforms in Pennsylvania: "All too often, Pennsylvania's current system leads to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement being exposed too late, when much of the money may be gone and the damage to kids is done."

  • Banning lease overpayments by prohibiting people related to the charter school entity or educational management service provider of a charter school from receiving any payments for approved reimbursable annual rental for leases of buildings or portions of buildings for charter school use.
  • Including charter schools in the same teacher evaluation system used for Pennsylvania's traditional public schools. "The charter schools that are doing as well as or better than other public schools should welcome an apples-to-apples comparison," Roebuck said.
  • Adding brick-and-mortar charter schools to Wolf's proposal to base special education tuition rates for cyber charter schools on the recommendations of the bipartisan Special Education Funding Commission.

More information about the bill is available at http://is.gd/PACharterReform2015.

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