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Ultra-rich Pa. school’s spending under scrutiny


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 28, 2021
Hershey fortune, mask rule, sentence upheld, police watchdog, Capitol commission, Amish immunity, and 'jawning' with Aaron Burr. It! Is! Friday!

The Milton Hershey School has a dilemma many charities want: too much money. But the question is how much of that fortune is being used to support its charitable mission. 

Federal tax law does not require organizations like the Milton Hershey School to spend a particular amount each year in support of charitable goals.

But Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report the widening chasm between what the Hershey school could spend to help poor children and what it actually spends has led alumni, a local probate judge, and the state attorney general to call for the institution to do more

Hershey’s fortune, which funds the school, has ballooned to be larger than that of the Ford Foundation. But the school has faced persistent criticism for helping only a fraction of the vulnerable children it could reach with its vast wealth. 

THE CONTEXT: The charity’s board members say they are doing what Milton Hershey wanted and are bound by the school’s founding document, which says the board can spend only the income earned by the endowment, not the endowment itself.

So while the school’s total assets are worth $17.4 billion, $16 billion of that — Hershey Co. stock, real estate holdings, and other investments — cannot be spent, according to the deed.

Even by that metric, though, the school hasn’t been as generous as it could be, and lingering questions over its spending have been renewed with a lawsuit filed by former board chair Robert Heist in April.

Heist, who still sits on the board, is suing for access to financial documents he says he’s been denied for more than a year and which he says are needed to ensure that school funds aren't being wasted.

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"And I walk or run every single day … booming, filthy lyric music people sucking up weed and partying in cars while cruising around, drunk drivers weaving the streets."

—Reading School Board President Robin Costenbader-Jacobson talking about the city in a social media post now driving a push for her ouster
VACCINE UPDATE: Hours after the CDC announced fully vaccinated people could go maskless in most situations, visits to the federal vaccine finder site spiked, hitting the second highest level since its April 30 launch. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
We're starting the holiday weekend off with a tranquil shot of Vincent DiFilippo Nature Preserve in Silver Spring Township. Thanks, iamyolimar, for sharing! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: We're off for Memorial Day on Monday, but PA Post will be back in your inbox first thing Tuesday. See you then.
MASK OFF: Pennsylvania will lift its statewide mask rule on June 28 or sooner if the state hits its 70% fully vaccinated benchmark before then. The change was announced as the state gets ready to lift COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and businesses at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Department of Health says the update won't prevent municipalities and school districts from ​continuing or implementing stricter rules of their own, per WITF.

SPANIER SENTENCE: Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier will begin a two-month prison sentence on July 9, ABC27 reports. Forced out as Penn State's top administrator when Jerry Sandusky was arrested a decade ago, Spanier had his prison sentence on a related child endangerment conviction upheld by a judge on Wednesday. 

NEW OVERSIGHT: Philadelphia's creation of a Citizens Police Oversight Commission, an independent and permanent watchdog group to investigate allegations of misconduct, is being lauded as a "monumental leap" forward by advocates, WHYY notes. The new group replaces a toothless Police Advisory Commission and could be active by July. 

WORD OF MOUTH: Plain community attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines are shaped by their rural neighbors, the York Daily Record reports. But access remains crucial in driving participation. "Amish people aren’t living on an island," researcher Donald Kraybill explained, adding that vaccination decisions vary among the state's 550 congregations. 

COSBY CASE: Pennsylvania denied parole to Bill Cosby because the disgraced comedian failed to complete a treatment program for convicted sex offenders and received a negative recommendation from the Department of Corrections. It is not clear when the 83-year-old will next be eligible for parole, NBC10 reports.
MONEY PIT: How many stimulus checks went uncashed in Pennsylvania? A total of 72,252, according to a Boston Herald report. That's the fifth-highest total in the country. The outlet requested IRS records and found more than 1.2 million checks from the first stimulus found remain unspent nationwide.

HUNTER GATHERED: A hunter has been extradited to face charges here in a first for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Zachary L. Scheffel fled to Kentucky in late 2020 to avoid a felony charge related to illegal hunting. He was arrested there and returned to Pennsylvania this week, per ABC27.

TWIST, SHOUT: Auntie Anne's went viral this week after someone suggested the Pennsylvania-native pretzel-maker ditch malls for drive-thrus. The chain says it already has ... in Wylie, Texas. Everyone else is impatiently waiting for their own. Consolation prize? Auntie Anne's has food trucks.

SLANG SHOP: Philadelphia native, CMU grad, and "Hamilton" superstar Leslie Odom Jr. did a Philly slang tutorial for Vanity Fair. Odom breaks down "jawn," "bol, "Mummers," "MAC machine," and "water ice" — with an assist from his mom and sister and a most comfortable-looking sweater

WATCH PARTY: See Odom's slang in action with a Chicago-based comedian's take on a Philly mom watching HBO's "Mare of Easttown." "That's the girl from 'Titanic.' Did you see it?" "What's in the wooder!?" And "why's she eating the hoagie without onions?" The show's finale is set for Sunday.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Unabridged

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Dixie S., Craig W., Neal W., Mike B., Bill C., Susan D., Bob R., Paul H., Kevin H., Bette G., David I., Barbara F., Becky C., Claire K., Michelle T., Heidi B., Karen W., Elizabeth W., Meg M., Kim C., Parker B., Diane P., Don H., Dianne K., David W., Jackie S., George S., James B., Dennis M., Lex M., Patricia M., Tina P., Joel S., Suzanne S., Eileen B., Carol D., Gwen B., Jill A., Elaine C., Christine M., Johnny C., Diana M., Myles M., Tish M., and Craig E.
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