By Peter L. DeCoursey
HARRISBURG (Jan. 29) – Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said a recently-unveiled House charter school reform bill went too far in cutting charter school funding and restoring funds to school districts.
His remarks, which came in a wide-ranging press conference in his office on Tuesday, included a discussion of transportation, school safety, liquor privatization, lottery and casino concerns and many other issues. For a story on Scarnati’s views of the pension reform proposal forthcoming from Gov. Tom Corbett, CLICK HERE.
But while Scarnati generally veiled his criticisms of administration proposals, saying he wanted to see more details and wanted to work with them to come up with pension reform and transportation and budget legislation, he was dismissive of the House charter school reform bill.
“Everything that we had worked on in the past, in the past session, was to find, I think some middle ground,” he said of the House charter reform bill introduced Friday. This goes well beyond middle ground and I’m just not so sure it has that much support.”
The proposal would take hundreds of millions of dollars from charter schools and put them back into public school district operations, critics said. Administration officials deferred comment until they could review the House legislation more fully.
House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said: “This legislation is about fairly funding our public education system. We want to be fair to families as well as fair to taxpayers. And our hope is that this will start the conversation this session.”
Scarnati also emphasized that he was for providing more resources for schools to make their sites safer. He said he supported legislation that would increase Safe Schools funding from $500,000 per year to $10 million.
But he said he was not in favor of further gun control laws, or statewide laws: “These decisions are best made at a local level.”
Scarnati said no teachers from his district had asked him to change laws so they could be armed in schools.
Scarnati said he hoped the administration’s contract with Camelot, its new private Lottery-running partner, would specifically rule out Internet gaming in the future, to avoid lawsuits from casinos.
And while he said he was willing to see what kind of liquor privatization bill could pass the House and Senate, he also wanted to see the liquor “modernization” bill sought by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board passed: “That brings us $75 million to $100 million a year, which makes the Lottery more valuable. We should put both trains on the track.”
Privatization backers have stymied the “modernization” bill for the last two years.