On call-in show, Wolf defends charter school cuts, doubles down on opposition to supervised injection sites

(Philadelphia) — Governor Tom Wolf’s newest plan for Pennsylvania charter schools has ruffled some feathers.

WHYY received a flood of social media messages and phone calls during Friday’s live interview with Wolf, mostly from concerned parents over the change in charter school funding.

Wolf spoke with reporters as part of Keystone Crossroads’ Ask Governor Wolf program, recorded live at WHYY days after his 2020-21 budget address. You can stream the full show below.


Last week in Wolf’s annual budget address, he proposed reducing the amount of money school districts have to pay when one of their students decides to attend a charter school. He also plans to change how charters are funded for special education.

Wolf responded to the influx of criticism, by first emphasizing that when charter schools work well, “they really add things to the educational enterprise.”

The governor said he wants parents to have school choice — but also sees the need to hold charter schools more accountable.

“Some operators can use loopholes in the system and weaknesses in the legislation to actually gain the system,” Wolf said. “Right now, the charter school gives the public school board a bill and they have to pay. There’s no accountability.”

Trump doesn’t deserve credit for Pa.’s strong economy, Wolf says

The president brought his 2020 reelection campaign to Hershey in December. During his speech, Trump took responsibility for the commonwealth’s strong economy.

Wolf wholeheartedly disagrees with Trump’s proclamations. When prompted with Trump’s claims, Wolf swiftly denied that Trump had any responsibility for the state’s economic successes.

The governor said that neither he or Trump deserve credit, and that Pennsylvania is just one piece of the international, prosperous puzzle.

“Generally, the global economy is pretty strong and we’re part of that global economy,” Wolf said.

On supervised injection sites

After discussing the opioid crisis across Pennsylvania, Wolf confronted the pleas in Philadelphia to open supervised injection sites, where people can use drugs under the watch of medical professionals.

Wolf has repeatedly opposed supervised injection sites. In Friday’s interview, he stood strong in his position.

“I’m afraid that safe injection sites actually create the sense that maybe we’re relaxing our effort on prevention and just doing something to mitigate the problem,” Wolf said. “I want to prevent it. I would like to drop demand for these harmful things.”

While many proponents of supervised injection sites claim the facilities could reduce the number of overdose deaths down from three a day, to one, Wolf pushed back on this idea.

“I’m not sure that it’ll bring us to one,” he said.

To close the hour-long discussion, Wolf said he supports clean needles, needle exchange centers, “but safe injection sites I don’t agree with.”

This was the third installment of Ask Governor Wolf, hosted by Keystone Crossroads’ Kevin McCorry and Avi Wolfman-Arent, and Katie Meyer of WITF in Harrisburg.

Keystone Crossroads is a statewide reporting collaborative of WITF, WPSU and WESA, led by WHYY. This story originally appeared at https://whyy.org/programs/keystone-crossroads.

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