Roebuck eager to enact governor’s plan to clean up lead, asbestos in schools

HARRISBURG, Jan. 29 – State Rep. Jim Roebuck, D-Phila., is applauding Gov. Tom Wolf for making the cleaning up of Philadelphia’s toxic schools and similar health hazards across the state a priority in his upcoming budget proposal.

At a Capitol news conference today, Wolf announced that his budget proposal would include $1.1 billion to support remediating toxins like lead and asbestos in schools, daycare centers, homes and public water systems across Pennsylvania.

“Philadelphia’s children and children in other parts of the state have been forced to learn in deplorable conditions that present serious health risks to them and their teachers,” Roebuck said. “It is unconscionable that these schools have continued to fall in disarray to the point of shutting down. Even though legislation was introduced to help fix the problem, the Republican majority has not moved it from committee since it was first introduced in June.

“I am grateful that Governor Wolf is taking this issue seriously and making it a priority in his budget, signaling to lawmakers across the state, especially the Republican majority, that this crisis needs substantial resources to be resolved. With this proposal, we have a real and significant opportunity to build a brighter health and education future for our children,” he said.

Wolf’s proposal to address asbestos and lead includes:

  • Funding up to $1 billion in grants from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, specifically for asbestos and lead remediation in schools.
  • Working with children’s health-related government agencies and programs to increase funding for lead remediation where children have been exposed to high levels of lead.
  • Transferring grant funds from the state’s water and sewer infrastructure program (Pennvest) to specifically address lead in drinking water.
  • Implementing lead testing in schools and childcare programs. 

Roebuck, the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, participated in a state Capitol rally last month where students and their parents, teachers and education advocates rallied for legislation that would help fix unhealthy and unsafe conditions in schools across Pennsylvania. 

He is a co-sponsor of legislation (H.Bs. 1636 and 2147) that would establish a $125 million grant program within the Department of Education, known as the Public School Building Emergency Repair and Renovation Grant Program. He also is a member of Fund our Facilities, a coalition of elected leaders, labor organizations and community groups in Philadelphia and surrounding areas that is focused on securing funding for improvements to school buildings.

Wolf’s budget address will be delivered before a joint session of the House and Senate on Tuesday.