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Tell us about health hazards at your local schools

Plus, sole Latino candidate in new 'majority-minority' district exits race.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 8, 2022
The balance of power in Harrisburg is on the ballot this year. Invest in tough, nonpartisan reporting that cuts through the noise, gets to the truth, and empowers voters. Support Spotlight PA now »
School gaze, political decision, war crimes, majority reports, solar stumble, and the 'Eiffel Tower of Kensington' glows again. It's Friday!
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Years of surveys, research, and news reports suggest some of Pennsylvania's school buildings likely pose health risks to students and staff. 

And while schools are subject to inspections, there is no centralized, statewide database making the results easy for parents to find or understand.

"It's fragmented because there's no requirement for it not to be," said David Lapp of the Pennsylvania education nonprofit Research for Action.

In an attempt to locate overlooked or underreported school infrastructure problems, Spotlight PA is asking for input from community members, students, families, school faculty, and staff across Pennsylvania.

HOW TO HELP: We want to know about any infrastructure problems — a moldy ceiling, flaky paint, unreliable phone or internet connections, or faulty elevators, for example — that interfere with learning or create a potentially unsafe environment for students and staff at schools in your area.

We're collecting information on educational facilities serving students in kindergarten to 12th-grade, including public, charter, and private schools, as well as career and technical schools or intermediate unit facilities.

Your input will inform our reporting and help us identify problems affecting students across the state. It will also help fill significant information gaps. For example: A 2014 school facilities survey overseen by the state's Department of Education is both eight years old and the most recent available.

Learn more about Spotlight PA's project here or take our survey now
Spotlight PA has been awarded a prestigious national prize for its years-long investigation, The Hidden Tab, into how state lawmakers spend millions of tax dollars on themselves. This is some of the best local journalism in the country, right here in Pennsylvania. But it can only continue with your support

Invest in the truth, the facts, and the future of our state by making a gift now.

"I saw the PAC ad that is currently running in Pennsylvania. It is wrong and it is disgusting. And if Conor Lamb wants to stand up as a Democrat, then he needs to disavow that ad today." 

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) on an attack ad in Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Senate primary that's raising eyebrows in D.C.
» BROKEN RULES: Join us Thursday, April 14 at 6 p.m. EST via Zoom for a free discussion on Pa.'s medical release law for state prisoners, who the law impacts, and the strain it places on people in prison, their families, and taxpayers. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Getting up close and personal at the Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens in Devon, Chester County, courtesy of PA Poster @mar_sees_lifeSend us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
OPEN RACE: The only Latino candidate for Allentown's 22nd state House District is withdrawing from the race, meaning there will be no Latino candidate in a political territory recently redrawn with Latinos in mind, the Morning Call reports. Norberto Dominguez's decision to exit the race comes with advocates for better representation in Harrisburg already questioning Pennsylvania's recent redistricting results.

NO VOTE: U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania was one of six House Republicans to vote against a bill encouraging the president to gather evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. There were 418 votes in favor. Perry told USA Today that "legitimizing the [International Criminal Court], of which the U.S. is not a member" could lead to Americans being charged with war crimes over U.S. military actions. America's relationship with the court is complicated. This article from 2020 explains.

TIP LINE: A tip line set up by Pennsylvania's Office of the Attorney General to detect threats of violence and intimidation in schools has uncovered much more, the Post-Gazette reports. According to the AG's office, nearly three out of every four calls to the tip line, an anonymous reporting system for schools, were focused on mental illness, self-harm, discrimination and harassment, or instances of bullying. 

POWER OUT: As solar projects proliferate statewide, a watchdog group says a taxpayer-funded one in Bedford County has become a festering, abandoned eyesore. The Altoona Mirror reports the multimillion-dollar project is meant to provide power for county facilities, including the jail and courthouse. Groundbreaking was held in 2018, and officials blame the pandemic, state permits, and more for the long delays. 

ON ALERT: State health officials have issued a health advisory about syphilis in Centre County, where cases of the STI jumped by 300% — from three cases to 12 — between 2020 and 2021. Centre Daily Times reports syphilis funding was cut in the 90s and cases have been creeping up in the U.S. for the past 20 years. Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down clinics, meaning fewer cases were being caught in time.

BUS HOP: American Airlines has hired a bus company to carry passengers between the Philadelphia International Airport and airports in Allentown and Atlantic City, the AP reports. The service will start June 3 and is being pitched as an easier way to connect customers to international flights

CHANCE ENCOUNTER: Forty-one years after he rescued her from a burning car, retired Shaler police Sgt. Ralph Hoffman and Cindy Lott Zurchin were reconnected in a chance encounter, the Post-Gazette reports.

STEPPING DOWN: Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher is stepping down in 2023, per The Pitt News. He acknowledged the announcement as "sudden and unexpected" for some. He will remain a full-time faculty member.

LIGHT UP: The Inquirer's Stephanie Farr tweets: "For the first time in 30+ years, this giant milk bottle atop an old dairy factory in Kensington is relit. Love that someone once called it the 'Eiffel Tower of Kensington.'"

NAME THAT TUNE: Do you Heardle? It's a new online game that's like Wordle except you're guessing a song one second at a time. Enjoy.

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.

*This week's theme: Nautical, me hearties
Yesterday's answer: Anchorage

Congrats to our daily winners: Bonnie R., Craig W., Judith D., Don H., Barbara F., David S., Deb N., Susan D., Michelle T., Pat B., Becky C., Kimberly S., Roseanne M., Susan N.-Z., Mike B., Elizabeth W., Patricia M., Vicki U., Al M., William S., Rick G., Beth T., Ted W., Starr B., Jude M., Ann E., Elaine C., Daniel M., David W., James B., Steve H., Bill S., Michael B., Nancy S., and George S.
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