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State scholarships for college — with a catch

Plus, a state budget sticking point returns.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Tuesday, June 4, 2024
Today: College catch, budget briefings, ERIC exits, pain points, and wildfire watchers. This is PA Post. Thanks for checking in.
Budget season is in full swing in Harrisburg and efforts to make college more affordable abound this year. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support that goal — with different ideas of how to go about it.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro wants to merge Pennsylvania’s 10 state-run and 15 community colleges and cap tuition at $1,000 per semester for many families, but the state Senate's GOP majority rejected the pitch.

Instead, Senate Republicans are pushing new state-sponsored scholarships for in- and out-of-state students, with a catch: there are approved courses of study linked to “in-demand occupations" defined by state agencies.

Recipients would also need to secure a job in Pennsylvania related to their studies within a year and keep it for 15 months for every year they received the scholarship. If a graduate fails to do so, the grant becomes a loan.
Read Spotlight PA's full report: Proposed scholarships would make going to college cheaper in Pa., but there’s a catch.

"We were able to have a peaceful resolution to what was a long two days."
—Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto on the end of a pro-Palestinian protest outside Pitt's Cathedral of Learning overnight; a protester said the dispersal followed negotiations "between campers and local officials"
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Spotlight PA's new weekly newsletter focused on caregiving and caregivers across Pennsylvania launches at 10 a.m. today. 

Every Tuesday, "How We Care" will feature original reporting and perspectives on how we care for one another at all stages of life, the huge economic and policy questions ahead, and how it's affecting the lives of millions of people across the state. You can sign up for How We Care here.
Dingmans Falls in Pike County, via Don N. It's the second-tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania. Have a photo of your own to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
A large waterfall rushing down a cliff.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
OPEN SEASON: It's T-minus four weeks until Pennsylvania's budget deadline, and what to do with a $14 billion surplus remains a dividing line. Per the AP: Republicans in control of the state Senate say Gov. Shapiro's $48.3 billion proposal (drawing on $3.5 billion in cash reserves) would put the state on course to drain the surplus in a few years. Democrats say a GOP tax-cut plan would have a similar effect.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
STICKING POINT: Private school vouchers are also on the table this budget season after last year's related meltdown. The Inquirer (paywall) reports school vouchers could stall the state budget past the June 30 deadline, "with Democratic leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the Senate all promising they won’t back down on the issue." It's all happening amid a larger debate over public-school funding.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
WHIP WISH: State Sen. Ryan Aument (R., Lancaster), the upper chamber’s majority whip, also plans to use this budget process to pursue bills that would mandate students obtain parental permission to access books considered sexually graphic and another limiting student access to smartphones and social media during schools hours, LNP reports, via sister site WITF. Here's their rundown of other partisan priorities.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
DATA GAPS: Republican state lawmakers fueled by flawed research have been looking to remove Pennsylvania from a multi-state consortium that keeps voter rolls up to date. New data out of Florida, which left the same program last year, indicate doing so has coincided with a 93% drop in referrals about double-voters from other states, the Tampa Bay Times reports, making it harder to detect illegal voting.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
AT A LOSS: Third-party pharmacy benefit managers that the Biden administration tried to rein in are being blamed for an increasing number of small pharmacy closures in Pennsylvania. Capital-Star profiles one, Burns Pharmacy in Morrisville, which turned a reliable profit before 2016, when it started selling drugs at a loss. The outlet counts over 100 pharmacies shuttered in Pennsylvania since the start of 2023.
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GONE AWRY: A young woman's story of emotional abuse and manipulation at a Hare Krishna ashram in Philadelphia is detailed in a New York Times piece (paywall) that recounts her search for faith gone awry.

MIA COMMISSION: The commission charged with enforcing Harrisburg's ordinance against discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation hasn’t met for over two years, PennLive reports.

FELONY FIND: Over 15,000 stolen construction tools, some believed to be from Pennsylvania, were recently recovered in Maryland thanks to a 41-year-old carpenter and his Apple AirTags. The haul is worth millions.

FIRE SEASON: Wildfire season has begun in Canada. A Penn State team has a new way of gauging the pollution risks for downwind states like ours — risks popular websites are prone to underestimate, per StateImpact. 

WAY UP: The tallest building in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh's U.S. Steel Tower, is being eyed by "national-level operators" for a rooftop observation deck and tourist attraction, Pittsburgh Magazine reports. 
Spotlight PA's exclusive "All Sun, No Shade" beach towel, on sale now

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Bold and thick, get ready for summer with this exclusive Spotlight PA swag. But hurry! Once they're gone, they're gone for the year. SHOP NOW >
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.

Yesterday's answer: Nonentity

Congrats to our daily winners: Jane R., Eric F., Bob C., Stacy S., John P., Bruce B., Don H., Marc G., Barbara F., Jon W., Dan A., Wendy A., Gerry L., Laurie J., Mike B., Mike H., Susan N.-Z., Richard A., Julie K., Alan B., Ada M., Judith D., Kimberly D., Annette I., Beth H., Pat E., James B., Tom M., George C., Jeffrey F., Michael T., David T., and Stanley J.
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