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Lawmakers backtrack on poorest schools' funding

Plus, Pennsylvania's governor partners with OpenAI.

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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

Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Today: school funding, Penn statue, AI government, bus money, 2028 primary, skill games, climate change, and a whole lot of food waste. 

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Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts will miss out on $100 million in new money to help fill vacancies and reduce deficits after state lawmakers diverted those dollars to school construction projects instead.

Roughly half of the 100 school districts involved in Pennsylvania's Level Up program serve students in rural counties where populations are shrinking, and taxpayers continue to bear the brunt of rising costs.

After agreeing to boost funding for the districts, lawmakers decided to reroute that money to school construction projects as a compromise when Democrats and Republicans finalized the budget after a lengthy delay.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa.’s poorest school districts were slated for a funding boost. State aid went to school construction instead.


"The preliminary draft proposal, which was released prematurely and had not been subject to a complete internal agency review, is being retracted. No changes to the William Penn statue are planned."

—The National Park Service walking back a plan to remove William Penn's statue from a Philly park following criticism online and in Harrisburg; Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro is taking some credit for the reversal

A unique-looking Chester County tree in the snow, via @mar_sees_life. Have a Pennsylvania photo of your own to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A large tree with gnarled limbs in the snow.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.AI EMBRACE: Gov. Josh Shapiro says he's taking "a historic first step" in utilizing generative AI in state government employee operations, WHTM reports, partnering with OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman. The AP has more on Shapiro's embrace of AI tools here.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.BUS MONEY: Service cuts and fare hikes could be looming for Philly mass transit riders after a $295 million boost in SEPTA funding failed to make it into the state budget. The Inquirer (paywall) reports the race is on to get funding lined up before cuts kick in.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
DECISION 2028: Lawmakers failed to reschedule Pennsylvania's 2024 primary amid a Passover conflict that could sideline Jewish voters and election workers. WITF reports one lawmaker is giving the General Assembly a four-year head start on moving the next one.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.IRS ACTION: The IRS seized $443,052 from a retired Pennsylvania State Police corporal who served as compliance director for an influential maker of Pennsylvania skill games before recently resigning, per Capital-Star. The case involves Rick Goodling's personal taxes.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.TWO TALES, ONE CITY: While Pittsburgh uses climate-change projections to inform its stormwater-control regulations, drawing federal plaudits, Capital & Main reports on a study ranking it worst among U.S. states in the "extreme embrace" of fossil fuel lobbyists.
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FOOD WASTE: A nonprofit says Pennsylvania households are wasting a lot of food — and it's only gotten worse, via Axios.

MOVING IN: Photonics firm Excelitas is leaving Massachusetts for Pittsburgh and pledging to create at least 250 jobs over four years, via WESA.

MULLET-MANIA: The photos from the first-ever mullet contest at the Pennsylvania Farm Show are as incredible as we'd hoped.

POWERPOINT PARTY: Philadelphians are trying to help their single friends find dates by creating PowerPoints and presenting them at parties.

SLIPPING AWAY: Facing landslide risks exacerbated by climate change, Pittsburgh is buying at-risk homes using federal money.

Are you a Berks County resident? We're seeking community input! Join one of our upcoming Spotlight PA - Berks County listening sessions:

Jan 13: 10 a.m.-noon at Exeter Public Library | Register Here
Jan 23: 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Fleetwood Public Library | Register Here

A listening session is an informal, small-group discussion in which we are seeking your thoughts, opinions, and concerns on local news coverage, information access, community information needs, and news consumption habits. Visit spotlightpa.org/berks for more information.
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: Newlyweds

Congrats to our daily winners: Eric F., Don H., Richard A., Kimberly D., Elaine C., Jon W., Barbara F., Stacy S., Bob C., Susan N.-Z., Alan B., Marie B., Ada M., Daniel S., Tom M., Kim C., Ronald C., Stanley J., David W., Wendy A., Lynne E., William Z., Linda W., Jody A., and Dan A.
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