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School voucher debate could blow budget deadline

Plus, SCOTUS strikes down race-based college admissions.

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Friday, June 30, 2023
Budget block? potentially pivotal, high court rulings, new polling, coal dust, and protecting yourself against smoky skies. Enjoy your weekend. 

Today is the deadline for lawmakers and Gov. Josh Shapiro to reach a budget deal, but private school vouchers have emerged as a sticking point.

Democrat Josh Shapiro supports them, but the Democrats who narrowly control the state House are digging in their heels in opposition.

If a budget deal isn't reached in time, the impacts won't be immediate. But if the impasse lasts for months — as it has before — state-funded programs would be forced to make hard decisions as funds dwindle.

Read Spotlight PA’s full report: Debate over publicly funded private school vouchers could push Pa. budget past June 30 deadline.

THE CONTEXT: One voucher proposal under consideration would route taxpayer dollars to private schools by allowing students in “low-achieving” public districts to apply for scholarships, which they could use for nonpublic school tuition, fees, or special education at a nonpublic school. 

State House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D., Montgomery) remains opposed, calling the "lifeline scholarship" proposal  a "distraction" as Pennsylvania grapples with a February court ruling that found the state unlawfully underfunds poorer districts and must find a way to fix it.

Read more from Spotlight PA: What are Pa.'s lifeline scholarships? School choice, vouchers, and the budget debate, explained.


"The Court’s decision makes way for new 21st century segregation.  Now college admission officers and recruiters are told to put back on the same blinders that prevented them from seeing Black talent for centuries."

State Sen. Art Haywood (D., Philly) on Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions; more below
» Shapiro withdraws health secretary pick, via The Inquirer (paywall)

» States clamp down on freight trains, fearing federal inaction, via AP

» U.S. Rep. Meuser joins Trump's 2024 campaign, via Times Leader

» Racist deed restrictions eyed with Pa. House bill, via Capital-Star

» Sept. 15 named Roberto Clemente Day in Pa., via KDKA-TV

» Pa. lawmakers advance COLA bills for retirees, via WHTM

» Bill requires high schoolers to complete financial aid docs, via AP
Investigative journalism that gets results. Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

Lehigh Gorge State Park in Jim Thorpe, Pa., via Amy Z. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

A wide shot of Lehigh Gorge State Park in Jim Thorpe Pa
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.VOTE STOPS: Data from recent elections show the mail ballots of thousands of Pennsylvania voters continue to be rejected because of technical errors, such as not properly signing and dating the envelope. Extrapolated to next year's bigger-turnout presidential election, The Inquirer (paywall) says tens of thousands of potentially pivotal Pennsylvania mail ballots will be thrown out in the contest.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW RULING: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down race-based affirmative action policies in college admissions. Exactly how the 6-3 decision will shape admissions processes remains to be seen. The Philadelphia Tribune reported last month that five Pennsylvania universities formed a pact saying they will remain committed to diversity on campus regardless of the outcome of the case.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.RIGHTS AT WORK: The high court on Thursday also ruled in favor of a former Lancaster County letter carrier who filed a lawsuit against USPS  arguing that his Sunday shifts violated his religious beliefs and constitutional rights. NBC News reports the ruling will make it easier for employees to seek religious accommodations in the workplace. The case will return to lower courts for further litigation.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLL RESULTS: A new Quinnipiac University Poll found that a majority of Pennsylvania voters (57%) approve of Gov. Shapiro's job performance five months after he was sworn in. Other takeaways: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.)'s approval rating is 39% in his home state, matching Biden's, and the economy is top of mind for Pennsylvania voters headed into the 2024 election cycle.Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.BLACK LUNG: Grist reports that as mining companies exhausted high-quality seams of coal, they turned to digging up inferior veins with larger volumes of other minerals, namely silica, a leading cause of black lung disease. But a federal rule meant to better protect mine workers against silica exposure is bogged down in bureaucracy amid a black lung epidemic. Pennsylvania is home to several thousand miners.
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now.
🏆 HIGH SCORE: Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news this week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: School voucher fight, pandemic dollars, and the many keys to Pittsburgh.

AIR QUALITY: Smog from Canadian wildfires blanketed Pennsylvania this week. Here is how you can protect yourself from the problematic particles, per The Allegheny Front. An easy one: stay inside if possible.

FIREWORKS LAW: The Fourth of July approaches and consumer-grade fireworks remain legal in Pennsylvania — for now. Centre Daily Times has a guide to what is (and isn't) lawful to ignite on your holiday.

DEMOLITION: After weighing renovation costs and the "financial burden" of keeping up the William Penn building, Harrisburg School District officials have decided to demolish it. The Burg reports historians are disappointed.

BOOKSTORE MAP: Philadelphia has a whopping 46 local bookstores, and Billy Penn has an illustrated map to them all. Where’s your first stop?

GHOST TOWNS: Pennsylvania's got so many vacated towns that WHTM has compiled a guide to some of the top sites.

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.
 P T N U I D A E I O R

Yesterday's answer: Troposphere

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Don H., Barbara F., Becky C., Randy Z., Kimberly D., Susan N.-Z., Jon W., Elaine C., Kim C., Dianne K., Dennis M., William Z., Dan A., Wendy A, Tom M., James B., Stacy S., Stanley J., and John H.
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