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Pa. budget at impasse over private school vouchers

Plus, what's next for student debt relief?

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Monday, July 3, 2023
🏆 HEADS UP: Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news last week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: School voucher fight, pandemic dollars, and the many keys to Pittsburgh.
Budget blocker, debt decision, Moms meeting, lump sums, department 'discrepancies,' and 'regenerative grazing' for the Chesapeake Bay.

Pennsylvania has started the new fiscal year without a budget deal in place as a $100 million private school voucher proposal roils the process. 

The GOP-controlled state Senate voted 29-21 late Friday to advance a $45 billion budget that uses state money to fund scholarships so K-12 public school students can attend private institutions.

Democrats in control of the state House, arguing that school vouchers amount to a "defunding" of public schools, say it's a no-go.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. legislature at budget impasse as House Democrats vow to oppose $100M for private school vouchers.

THE CONTEXT: For more than a week, the debate over vouchers has pitted state House Democrats against state Senate Republicans and their own party’s first-year governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro.

From Spotlight PA's reporting: 

Many state House Democrats have balked at putting taxpayer dollars into private schools just months after a state court ruled many of the commonwealth's public schools are unconstitutionally underfunded.

Republicans have pitched vouchers as a way to give parents control over their children's education [and a way out of failing public schools]. 

Shapiro canceled a weekend appearance before a state teachers union conference in Philadelphia as budget talks continue and he faces intense blowback over his school voucher support, which he conditioned on simultaneously maintaining higher investments in public schools.


"His mother in Honduras desperately wants to be able to say goodbye and bury him close to family."

Friends of Marvin Chicas who died after saving two children from drowning at Lake Nochamixon in Bucks County last week
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
» Bill to expand property tax, rent rebate nears finish, via PennLive (paywall)

» Rent, property tax rebate saw decade of decline, via Spotlight PA archive

» Pa. House backs first step in state song overhaul, via Associated Press

» Pa.'s singing, driving, flag-waving identity crisis, via Spotlight PA archive

» Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, explained, via Capital-Star

A smoky view of the Susquehanna from Pinnacle Overlook, via Ed G. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

An overhead view of the Susquehanna River obscured by smog.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.STUDENT DEBT: A 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Friday shut down the Biden administration's plan to wipe thousands of dollars of student debt from millions of borrowers, including some 1.79 million Pennsylvania residents who were eligible for relief under the plan. Next steps aren't entirely clear, but Biden, facing a critical reelection test, is promising a Plan B for student debt forgiveness.Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.PHILLY SUMMIT: Protesters greeted a gathering of Moms for Liberty supporters in Philadelphia over the weekend, the SPLC-designated group's annual summit drawing Republican presidential candidates and focusing on an anti-trans agenda, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The "parental rights" group says it's training parents to hold school officials accountable on LGBTQ issues and run for office themselves.
  • RELATED: Moms for Liberty sets up teachers union clash, via AP
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.STATE MONEY: Pennsylvania's four state-related universities — Lincoln, Penn State, Temple, and Pitt — receive millions of dollars from the state annually, but tracking it is difficult. Spotlight PA reports the universities report their appropriation spending as lump sums, or in the broadest possible strokes. The universities say the money goes toward reducing in-state tuition rates that remain among the highest in the U.S.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CASE REVIEW: Officials say a Cambria County police sergeant's death was the result of a drug overdose, one possibly linked to evidence room "discrepancies." WTAJ reports criminal cases handled by the department are now in question, and that officials say one has already been withdrawn. Sergeant Michael Beblar, 40, died from a mix of fentanyl, hydrocodone, and xylazine, according to officials.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CAR CRIMES: The Pennsylvania House last week passed a bill that would up regulations on sales of catalytic converters in scrap metal yards in an effort to deter criminal fencing, WTAJ reports. In other news: A Philadelphia towing company is accused of purchasing millions of dollars' worth of stolen catalytic converters to sell at a profit following a nearly yearlong law enforcement investigation.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.

BAY BENEFITS: Civil Eats reports that farmers in Pennsylvania and neighboring states are turning to "regenerative grazing" techniques that are good for the land and the polluted Chesapeake Bay downstream. 

LIFE STORIES: Pittsburgh Union Progress has an intimate look at the lives of two trans youth — high school senior Anthony and IUP student Andrew-Dean, who said: “We are real people that walk with you every day.”

ROAD REPORTS: Days after a loose horse halted traffic on the roadway near Pittsburgh, movement on the Pennsylvania Turnpike was halted in the same area when a truck spilled a load of bananas there on Friday

SPACE SHOT: Pittsburgh-area native and astronaut Woody Hoburg tweeted a photo of his hometown from orbit last week. A 2004 North Allegheny High School grad, Hoburg piloted a SpaceX rocket to the ISS.

BOG IS BACK: Pittsburgh documentarian Dean Bog has returned with a new installment in his Neighborhoods series, this one on historic Hazlewood. It's his first new episode since a climbing injury several years ago.

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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
 N I E O P T C R S C H Y

Friday's answer: Repudiation

Congrats to our weekly winner: Jane L.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Eric F., Stacy S., Mike B., Elaine C., Don H., Barbara F., Lynne E., Julie K., Irene R., Jon W., Beth T., Susan N.-Z., Judith D., James B., Vicki U., Kimberly D., Elizabeth W., Tish M., Dennis M., John F., Dianne K., John P., David W., Richard A., Vanessa J., Wendy A., Dan A., Tom M., and William Z.
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