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Pa.'s landmark school funding trial is almost over

Plus, a law to protect sexual violence victims is barely being used.

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
July 26, 2022
School funding, budget event, constitutional amendments, surprise bills, deadly force, little-known law, and a successful pilot. It's Tuesday.  

A Commonwealth Court judge will hear final oral arguments today in Pennsylvania's major school funding lawsuit.

The suit, brought by six school districts and students' families, argues that the state is failing its constitutional obligation to provide an equitable, quality education to all students. 

The proposed remedy: a new “thorough and efficient” school funding system.

Republican legislative leaders — "the only state government officials actively contesting the suit" — argue the constitution provides only for "functional schools with properly credentialed teachers," Chalkbeat Philadelphia reports in a preview of the post-trial arguments both sides will present.

THE CONTEXT: In 2016, Pennsylvania passed a new "fair funding formula," designed to help poor and underfunded districts. The catch: only new education funding goes through the formula. 

The state's recently passed budget boosts funding for K-12 education by $525 million, all of which will go through the formula. The plan also provides an additional $225 million to the poorest schools in the state, including the six petitioner districts. 

The Education Law Center — one of the firms representing the petitioners — said the extra money was a start but did not amount to a "systemic fix to the inadequacy and inequity of Pennsylvania's funding system."

Spotlight PA will discuss education funding during its budget breakdown event tonight at 6 p.m.


"It’s like bartending, but with water ice."

—Bianca DiMatteo while working at John’s Water Ice in South Philadelphia during the recent heat wave

» BUDGET BREAKDOWN: Join us today at 6 p.m. on Zoom for a free breakdown of Pa.'s multibillion-dollar budget and how it will impact you. Register for the event here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

Rodney G. shares this view from an early morning walk along the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Send us your Pennsylvania pics, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
CHECKS AND BALANCES: A top state Senate Democrat told LNP that the Republican push to advance policy changes like universal voter ID through the constitutional amendment process threatens the state's system of checks and balances. GOP lawmakers point to Gov. Tom Wolf's veto tally to argue that such action is necessary.

SURPRISE BILLS: Dominion Energy Solutions' sale of Pennsylvania natural gas customers to Ohio-based Interstate Gas Supply Corp. has led to some surprise charges for people enrolled in budget billing. The Post-Gazette reports these customers now owe the balances they expected to pay throughout the year. 

DEADLY FORCE Washington County's DA says a State Police trooper was justified when they fatally shot a person who had a gun during a traffic stop, KDKA reports. As Spotlight PA has previously detailed, elected prosecutors who work closely with law enforcement determine whether or not to charge officers who kill or use force against civilians.

LITTLE KNOWN: In 2021, there were 18,000 petitions for Protection from Abuse orders against relatives, household members, and intimate partners across Pennsylvania. In the same year, just 285 cases statewide involved a relatively new law that grants sexual violence victims similar protection against defendants. PublicSource and City Cast Pittsburgh documented one such case involving two Pittsburgh police officers.

GEN 'V': Pennsylvanians in their late teens and early 20s — part of the Gen Z cohort — are expected to have a "disproportionately high electoral impact" during the midterms, the Post-Gazette reports. LGBTQ rights, abortion, and climate change are galvanizing younger voters on college campuses like Carnegie Mellon. 

'TEACHABLE MOMENT': Sesame Place said it is taking the apparent snub of two Black children by a costumed character near Philadelphia "extremely seriously." The Inquirer reports the family is calling on the company to take action against racism

PILOT PROGRAM: A program that provides doula services to pregnant women at State Correctional Institution Muncy has so far been a success. Billy Penn spoke to a mother who benefitted from the pilot

FLYING HIGH: Justin Rogers is not only preparing for his first year at the University of Virginia — he's also getting ready to prove he's one of the best young pole vaulters in the world, according to PennLive.

THEN AND NOW: It's November 1998 — a Furby is on every holiday wishlist, Lauryn Hill is topping the charts, and Luzerne County is still a Democratic powerhouse. The latter is among the Capital-Star's observations about how voter registration in the state has changed over the past two decades.

'TIS THE SEASON: Pennsylvania county fair season is underway, with festivities in Bedford, Clarion, Fayette, Kimberton, Lebanon, Shippensburg, Troy, South Mountain, and York happening this week

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: The internet

Yesterday's answer: Algorithm or logarithm

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., btfoos, Starr B., Doris T., Barbara O., Elaine C., Karen W., Michelle T., John B., Lynne E., Jessica K., Susan D., Elvino M., Don H., Stephen G., George S., John W., Kim C., Johnny C., James B., Beth T., Dianne K., David W., Michael B., Alissa H., Eddy Z., Sharon P., wmcgurrin, Ted W., Moon M., Nancy S., John P., Bill S., and Fred H. 
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