Friends of Jim Roebuck

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Roebuck: Corbett, GOP turn backs on kids in Philly and across Pa.

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on June 30, 2014 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

HARRISBURG, June 30 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, issued this statement on the state budget the legislature is expected to pass today:


"For the fourth year in a row, Governor Corbett and the Republicans who control the state House and Senate are again turning their backs on children in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. Republicans have chosen to pass a 'Frackers First' budget that keeps most of their roughly $1 billion in K-12 education cuts from 2011, instead of passing a fair gas-drilling tax and accepting the federal funds Pennsylvania would get by accepting a clean Medicaid expansion. I and other Democrats in Harrisburg have been advocating for common-sense solutions that have bipartisan support and support from a majority of the public – but Governor Corbett and most Republican legislators have chosen the wrong direction again.


"Republicans have added to this outrage by demanding Democratic votes for terrible ideas their own colleagues rejected -- not to provide Philadelphia schools with a restoration of the state revenue they deserve, but merely to let us raise our own local money through a cigarette tax. Governor Corbett has ultimate responsibility for the Philadelphia schools because he appoints three of the five School Reform Commission members, and the governor is once again failing the children of Philadelphia.


"I’m angry about this budget, and if you are too, you might want to call the governor at 717-787-2500."



A dozen problems with charter schools

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on May 20, 2014 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

School reformers keep talking about charter schools as if they were the answer to public education’s problems, when there is a great deal of evidence that shows big problems with the charter sector.

For example, a report on Pennsylvania’s charter schools recently released by a state legislator found that only one in six of the state’s charter schools is”high-performing” and it notes that none of the online charters is “high-performing.”

The report, released by Rep. James Roebuck, chairman of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, says that the state has 162 brick-and-mortar charters (28 of which are considered “high performing” based on standardized test scores) and 14 cyber charters. It notes about those 28:

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State auditor rips charter school oversight

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on May 13, 2014 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Oversight of charter schools in Pennsylvania is "a mess," state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has concluded, based on a series of public meetings across the commonwealth.


To help clean it up, DePasquale called Monday for creating an independent charter oversight board, restoring charter reimbursements for school districts, and requiring the state to pick up the tab for cyber charter schools.


DePasquale, a Democrat, said taxpayer-funded charter schools, which enroll 120,000 students across the state, are here to stay. Many are effective, he said, but an overhaul of the 1997 state law that authorized them is long overdue.


DePasquale's recommendations were contained in a report he released Monday that drew on remarks from five recent public meetings across the state on the accountability and effectiveness of charters.




Roebuck welcomes independent report on Pa. charter schools

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on May 12, 2014 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Roebuck welcomes independent report on Pa. charter schools; Auditor general confirms many of problems, solutions identified by Dem education chairman

PHILADELPHIA, May 12 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, welcomed today's independent report on charter schools from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.


"I support the findings and recommendations in this report from the state's auditor general. It's valuable to have independent confirmation of many of the problems and solutions I have identified with respect to the funding and accountability needed for tax-funded charter schools," Roebuck said.


Roebuck issued a report in April that focused on what other schools can learn from the one in six Pennsylvania charter schools that are high-performing, how to address charter schools' lease overpayments and other hot topics related to those schools.


The auditor general's report today identifies as a key problem the 2011 elimination of the $224 million state reimbursement to school districts for charter schools. Roebuck said that was the largest categorical cut among the roughly $1 billion in K-12 funding cuts Gov. Tom Corbett and Republican legislators made in 2011.


"The auditor general is right to say that many of the conflicts between traditional and charter public schools stem from the loss of that vital funding. It's well-known that Philadelphia and other cities' school districts were hit hard by that cut due to the large number of brick-and-mortar charter schools they have to fund. What's less well-known is that cut also hit many rural school districts hard because they have to fund numerous students at cyber charter schools," Roebuck said.


"In 2011, that cut cost Philadelphia $110 million – today the amount would be $180 million if that funding had been continued – enough to cover most of the $216 million deficit, and that's just in the state's largest school district. The charter school reimbursement cut is still a problem across the state."


Roebuck said another major finding in the auditor general's report today is that the state should fund cyber charter schools since it authorizes them. Currently, local school districts have to pay those bills but have no control over them. Roebuck was the first legislator to call for state funding of cyber schools by introducing H.B. 1657 in the 2011-12 session.


The auditor general's report today also covers the issue of lease overpayments to charter schools. Roebuck has introduced bipartisan legislation (H.B. 2237) to address that problem. He has also introduced a more comprehensive charter school reform bill (H.B. 934), which also has co-sponsors from both parties.

Reception for Jim Roebuck at Gables Bed and Breakfast

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on May 2, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear neighbors,

On May 20th, voters will go to the polls for the primary election, and this year we have real choices. Many of you have attended the various debates throughout the neighborhood, but for a more personal discussion of the issues, please join us for a reception for Jim Roebuck on Friday, May 9th from 6-8pm at the Gables Bed and Breakfast at 4520 Chester Avenue.

Since 1985, Jim has been a staunch advocate for our district in Harrisburg. No one takes education more seriously than he does. As Chair of the House Education Committee – and, as a former teacher himself, married to a teacher – Jim has fought hard for state support for education. His long tenure in Harrisburg has allowed him to develop important relationships and build coalitions that give our district a meaningful voice in Harrisburg. Jim has a flawless voting record on issues as diverse as education, prison reform, animal protection, firearm carry laws, and the environment. He advocates for a tax on Marcellus Shale gas extraction and for holding drillers accountable for environmental impacts. Now, more than ever, we need his experience, knowledge, and vision.

We hope to see you on May 9th from 6-8pm at the Gables Bed and Breakfast at 4520 Chester Avenue. A flyer for the event is attached.

Sponsored by Don Caskey, Warren Cederholm, Doris & Denis Cochran-Fikes, Marisa Guerin, Mike Sweeney, Patrick Loll, Nadia Adawi, Melani Lamond, and Brian Ratigan

Please help us prepare for the right number of attendees by letting us know if you’re coming: [email protected]

Nadia Adawi, Esq., M.B.A.

[email protected]

(215) 292-3080 cell

Learn from high-performing Pa. charter schools without overpaying - By State Rep. Roebuck

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on May 2, 2014 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)


As Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, I recently released a new report showing that about one in six charter schools in Pennsylvania is high-performing. The report – available at -- also addresses other hot topics about charter schools.


I would like the number of high performers among charter schools to be larger, but it's important to ask what these schools have in common and what we can learn for use in other tax-funded schools, including traditional public ones.


There are common characteristics among these 28 high-performing schools, located in 11 counties across the state, including Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery. What is most common is that they offer innovative education programs, with most of them focused on a specific approach to educational instruction or a specific academic area of instructional focus.


It's vital to look at what some charter schools are doing right and where they are being innovative because that was one of two reasons they were authorized in Pennsylvania in 1997 – to serve as models of innovation and to save taxpayers money. Unfortunately, one major charter school bill now pending, Senate Bill 1085, would strip that vital requirement out of the law.


And since one of charter schools' main purposes is to save taxpayers money, I plan to introduce legislation soon that would address concerns about lease overpayments to some of them. Since December 2012, audits by the Office of Auditor General found that the state Department of Education paid $1.8 million in questionable lease reimbursements to seven charter schools. Questions center on whether the schools violated state law and guidelines banning those reimbursements for facilities owned by people or entities related to the school.


I am particularly concerned that the department has taken no corrective action to date regarding these $1.8 million in potential overpayments. In fact, it appears the last time the department addressed a charter school lease issue related to property ownership was 2009-10, when a charter school in Philadelphia had to repay $225,000. This is especially urgent since those funds come from the same budget line item that would normally fund the backlog of state payments for over 203 already-approved school construction and renovation projects across Pennsylvania.


As the auditor general noted last year, "if the improper lease reimbursement problem is more widespread among the state’s 157 brick-and-mortar charter schools, it could be siphoning off millions of dollars away from other education priorities."


My new bill would make clear that a person who serves as a founder, a board of trustee or an administrator of a charter school, as well as an administrator or executive of the educational management service provider of a charter school, could not receive any payments for approved reimbursable annual rental for leases of buildings or portions of buildings for charter school use.


My bill would also put further requirements in place to protect tax dollars and secure the return of overpayments. With millions of state tax dollars at issue, the overpayments issue must be addressed in any charter school legislation that passes both the Pennsylvania House and Senate this year – and not with a study, but with requirements that have teeth in them.

By State Rep. Roebuck

University City Review, Friday, May 2, 2014

Roebuck advanced-placement bill moves to full House

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on April 30, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

HARRISBURG, April 30 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said the committee today unanimously voted to send his advanced-placement bill to the full House of Representatives.


Roebuck's bill (H.B. 2076) would require Pennsylvania public colleges and universities, including community colleges, to award academic credit to post-secondary students who have obtained a sufficient score in exams for Advanced Placement, the International Baccalaureate Diploma or College-Level Examination program.


The bill would cover community colleges and the 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education.


"We need to ensure that students who take these courses and do well on the exams are not denied college course credits. This could mean significant savings in college costs for the families of these students. Another benefit to both the state and parents would be the increased likelihood that these students would graduate on time and not have to seek further state grants or loans to finish college," Roebuck said.


"For example, students who take AP courses are much more likely than their peers to complete a college degree on time, whether a two-year degree or four-year degree, and they have higher retention rates and a higher first-year grade point average in college compared to non-AP peers."


Roebuck inserted an amendment to the bill to include the IB and CLEP exams. His amendment would also require the state's already-established Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee to develop and implement uniform standards for awarding academic credit for prior learning, including as demonstrated by AP, IB and CLEP exams. The standards would be developed in consultation with faculty and other staff from public institutions of higher education. The method of developing standards was recommended by the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education.


Roebuck also has introduced H.B. 2075, which would expand access to AP courses by redirecting $1 million the governor proposes to use for a school-to-school mentoring program. The money would be used to train the estimated 885 teachers in Pennsylvania public schools who are needed to ensure that every high school in the state can provide AP courses in the four core academic areas.


Roebuck said H.B. 2075 would save students and their families at least $17 million in tuition costs per year and would likely also save the state money.

State rep incumbent: To fix Philadelphia schools, we need a 'funding formula'

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on April 29, 2014 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

James Roebuck spoke to the DP about his political platform

By JILL GOLUB · April 27, 2014, 3:01 pm · Updated April 29, 2014, 1:15 am

State Representative James Roebuck is running for reelection for Pennsylvania’s 188th Legislative District, which encompasses Penn’s campus.


A Democratic primary candidate, his sole opponent is Algernong Allen, a community activist. Born in Philadelphia, Roebuck went to Central High School and then Virginia Union University. Afterward, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He has served on the board of directors for Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency and is a member of the Legislative Black Caucus.


The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke to Roebuck about his political platform.


Daily Pennsylvanian: How do you see Penn fitting into your platforms?


James Roebuck: [Penn] has a unique role as a strong, traditional liberal arts university, but it has also got the only veterinary school in the state, which is important for the state’s economy. It is the largest employer in the city, so it’s a major economic factor and an institution where many of us look at to partner and a source of economic support in the community. ... Penn always discusses what their concerns are in terms of securing state funding for the University, but also we talk on a regular basis about the ways in which Penn can be a better part of the community, whether its through First Thursday Meetings but also in terms of individual projects from the University. The relationship with Penn is critical to some of the things I do in Harrisburg.


DP: What do you think the most important skills are to succeed at this job? How are you better for the job than your opponent Algernong Allen?


JR: I’m a native West Philadelphian, I have lived here all my life, I have a sense of what the community is, and I’ve also worked very hard on various projects in terms of promoting art and culture in West Philadelphia. I founded West Philadelphia Partners for the Arts, designed to bring all the art and cultural groups together in West Philadelphia in order to have a common voice and draw down funding from the city and the state to promote cultural activities. We have more art and cultural groups in West Philadelphia than north and south Broad Street combined. ... Beyond that, I’ve been very instrumental in bringing in additional dollars for libraries and other facilities to improve quality of life. ... I am by profession a teacher, and that translates to my strong commitment to education and improving education in Philadelphia and the state. My involvement is very deep and well established. I would argue that you don’t have to ask what Jim Roebuck would do, I have a record in Harrisburg. I have no idea what Algernong Allen’s priorities are.


DP: How can the Philadelphia school system be fixed?


JR: I think it is going to take a lot of things to fix it. The first thing we need is a funding formula. We are one of three states in the United States that does not have a funding formula for our schools. I’m proud of the fact that I was the majority chair of the Education Committee, and I was able to work with [Governor] Ed Rendell in securing education reforms. For example, before Rendell, the state put no money into early childhood education. Rendell made that a priority, and by the time he left the office the state had become a leader in early childhood education. We’ve expanded funding for kindergarten in Pennsylvania. ... We have to fund education if we want it to work and I am committed to trying to turn that around, and I am hoping for a Democratic governor in the future that will do that. Also, we need greater accountability for charter and cyber-charter schools.


DP: What is your stance on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana?


JR: I support that. When the bill comes up I will vote for it. For most of the student issues my vote is what students are looking for me to do.


DP: What is your stance on marriage equality?


JR: I support marriage equality, and I am a strong supporter of LGBT issues. You will find if you look at the record that there have been very few representatives who consistently support those issues — I’m one of those, and my record is strong which is why Liberty City Democrats endorsed me and I am a supporter and advocate for that community.


DP: Anything else?


JR: I certainly think that Penn students are probably concerned about the gas industry — the fact that it is expanding rapidly and not taxed and an industry that infringes upon the integrity of our natural resource areas in Pennsylvania and brings into jeopardy local water supplies. Therefore, there needs to be greater accountability and regulation of that industry. We ought to tax them at a level so that they return some of the immense profits they make that can be used to fund things like education.

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Ending the hypocrisy on charters

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on April 27, 2014 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

by Tom Ferrick, Apr. 27, 2014

The Philadelphia School District wouldn’t be in the financial trouble it is today if the state put its money where its mouth is.


The Corbett administration is vocal when it comes to supporting charter schools in the name of school choice. Its Education Department is permissive when it comes to charter requests to override local school districts attempting to cap charter enrollment and otherwise discourage their growth.


But, when it comes to financially supporting charter schools, the state offers zero help.


The state would argue that it already does enough. Charters get the same share of per pupil, transportation and special education aid handed out by the state. Instead of going to the local public school, the money goes to a charter. So what’s the problem?


But it is too simplistic to say that a dollar given to a charter school is a dollar saved by the school district. What is missing from this equation is something called “stranded costs”— money the local district still must pay even if a student defects to a charter.


Let’s use this hypothetical as an example:


Suppose a K-8 charter school opens down the road from a public elementary school. Eventually, 40 percent of the students in the district school enroll in the charter.


The elementary school may be able to reduce the number of classes—and save money on teacher’s salaries. On the other hand, it may only be able to decrease class size and have the same number of teachers. A fifth grade class with 24 students instead of 33 still is a fifth grade class that must be taught.


Even if it does shed teachers, the school must open every day, still must have a principal and a secretary and some support staff. It still must pay for maintenance and utilities.


All of those services cost the same whether there are 450 students in the building or 275.


It’s one thing for a school district to deal with this issue if it has just a handful of charters, which is the case in most districts across the state.


It is another thing if a district is the capital city of charters, which is the case in Philadelphia.


Philadelphia has 80-plus charter schools enrolling 60,000 students. Next year, the school district will spend $767 million—a figure equal to 31 percent of its budget—on charter school reimbursement, a figure that has risen every year for the past 10.


One answer to stranded costs is to close or consolidate district schools whose enrollment continues to sink. The district did that last year in a gut-wrenching process that saw two-dozen schools closed or consolidated.


But, it is hard to keep up with what amounts to an annual and unpredictable shift in student populations. The district has tried, often unsuccessfully, to cap charter enrollment—not because it opposes charters, but to get a handle on expenses.


But, it seems, every year the district estimates enrollment—and budgets accordingly—more students than expected slip across the line and end up in charters. This year, about 2,000 more than anticipated did so.


As the district’s budget problems deepen and the cuts made to services multiply, the lure of charters increases.


One way out of this mess is for the state to recognize that local districts need financial help to deal with such issues as stranded costs, which where unforeseen when the charter law first passed in 1997.


In fact, the state did just that. Act 88 of 2002 said the state could reimburse local districts for charters up to 30 percent of the cost of maintaining them. The Rendell administration began including Act 88 money in the Education Department’s budget.


Act 88 was one of those odd pieces of legislation that was supported by both pro- and anti-charter legislatures. For those who favored charters, it offered an incentive to districts to let them set up shop and to expand. For those opposed to charters, it provided aid to a school district to defray charter costs—and apply them to its overall operating budget.


In 2010, the Philadelphia School District got $114 million under Act 88, roughly a third of the $378 million it spent on charters that year.


And then the money went away.


In his first budget, Gov. Corbett zeroed out the Act 88 line item in the budget and removed the state entirely from supporting charter costs. The state, it seems, was in favor of supporting charters in every way but the most important—financial support.


Today, if Act 88 was in place the city would be due to get $228 million from the state for charter cost reimbursement.


That would be enough to take it out of deficit and also fund some of the initiatives Superintendent William Hite wants to take.


As it has done consistently, the Corbett administration has shifted support for the schools from the state to local governments.


In this case, there is the added hypocrisy of being vocal in support of charters while telling districts they are on their own in paying for the ancillary costs associated with them.


Corbett has a “pro-choice” agenda while simultaneously punishing the districts that pursue that path.


In this case, unlike other education aid schemes, there is no need to pass a new law or change a formula for disbursement of state aid. Act 88 remains in place. The legislature, in its wisdom, could decide that it was right in 2002 to recognize the issue of stranded costs, and it could add money for reimbursement to next year’s state budget.


It would end the hypocrisy and signal a halt to the political games being played over Philadelphia schools.

Sen. Williams, Rep. Roebuck are friends when needed

Posted by Friends of Jim Roebuck on April 25, 2014 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)
STATE SEN. Anthony Hardy Williams was first to arrive to congratulate and endorse State Rep. Jim Roebuck, greeting Mrs. Cheryl Roebuck and candidate at opening of Roebuck’s reelection campaign HQ at 4534 Baltimore Avenue. Though on opposite ends of school policies, Williams values his work and support in Harrisburg. Photo by Bonnie Squires

State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.) has had his differences with State Rep. Jim Roebuck (D-W. Phila.), Democratic Chairman of the House Education Committee, when it comes to charter- and public-school policies. But make no bones about it, that difference exists only in policy and not in allegiance.


Williams was among the leaders on board at Roebuck’s opening of his campaign headquarters last Saturday at 4535 Baltimore Avenue. Also in attendance and in support was Dolores Jones Butler, former Mayor of Yeadon, who is Roebuck’s campaign manager.