HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — On Monday, PA state Republican lawmakers held a policy committee hearing to discuss school choice and charter funding. Charter funding is not only a big debate in Harrisburg, but a very partisan one as well.
Republicans said today that charter institutions play a pivotal role in providing better education opportunities for all, and that their funding should reflect that. Many Democrats say there is a lack of charter accountability, and that charters impact the budget for public schools. Democrats, and fair funding advocates, say funding needs to be adequate and equitable.
Today’s Republican policy hearing occurred at a time when the House, and entire General Assembly, are at a standstill. Even at a stalemate, House Republicans said they’re focused on getting prepared for when business ultimately gets underway.
“The governor has showed a willingness to go to work on day one. The Senate has showed a willingness to go to work on January 3rd- day one- get organized, start working. The House Republicans are here. We are ready to work, we have been ready to work, and we will continue to be ready to work,” said Rep. Joshua Kail (R-Beaver/Washington), Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.
Republicans called out House Democrats and Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), and said they’re stalling by keeping the doors to the House locked.
“Speaker Mark Rozzi and his Democratic colleagues are holding Pennsylvanians hostage by locking the doors of the House chamber, preventing legislation from getting passed to make the lives of everyone easier. The Democrats’ willingness to showcase their inaction proves they only care about power,” said Kail. “From education reform to the proposed constitutional amendments, we must act swiftly on passing measures that people have been desperately asking for us to get across the finish line. It’s time for the Democrats to join the House Republican Caucus in getting back to work,” Kail added.
House Republican Education Committee Chairman Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton) is hopeful leadership from both parties will reach an agreement on rules, and other items that are preventing the House from returning to session, sooner than later.
“I hope that the members of both leadership teams, the speaker, I hope they can all come together. But until that happens, my focus is this new this new job that I’ve been given and the new direction that I’ve been given in this position, to start to get to work on educational issues so that we can hit the ground running when we get committees up and running,” said Topper.
Topper says he’s tired of the inaction and adds that there’s a lot of work that needs to get done, like considering constitutional amendments and improving education opportunities.
“I’m tired, frankly, of talking about the other stuff. It’s worn on for far too long. All we can do is, as members of both parties, is start educating ourself on the issues that we know that we’re going to be playing a big part in and then we’ll be ready to move forward as soon as everybody else gets their act together,” said Topper.
Topper says today’s hearing discussed investing in education in a way that allows every child to have access to an excellent education regardless of their zip code. He adds that it also addressed the need to update the state’s charter law.
“The system currently is archaic. We haven’t updated the charter law in many, many years, decades. It’s time to bring education at every level into today’s world, and we haven’t done that,” said Topper.
House Democrats say they are, and always have been, champions for education and have fought tirelessly for decades to improve support for students and teachers.
In a statement this afternoon, House Democratic spokesperson Nicole Reigelman said:
“House Democrats champion Pennsylvanian students, teachers and schools, and have fought tirelessly for decades to improve supports for students academically, as well as socially and emotionally. Our caucus believes provided adequate and equitable resources, our public schools will be equipped to ensure our next generation of leaders, workers, and entrepreneurs are resilient and prepared for college and careers.”
Last week, Speaker Rozzi gaveled the House out of session until Feb. 27 after leaders were unable to compromise on several matters.