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Will it cost billions to fairly fund Pa. schools?

Plus, what's next for a suit challenging Pennsylvania's preemption of local gun laws.

CALL TO ACTION
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all gifts will be DOUBLED!Today is Democracy Day, a call to action to preserve and protect our freedoms. And what better way to take action today than to support trusted, nonpartisan journalism in Pennsylvania that informs, equips, and inspires Pennsylvanians to drive positive change.

Help cut through the noise and misinformation by sustaining voter-first election resources and investigative reporting that gets results. 

As a special bonus, the first 500 gifts made during our Fall Member Drive will be DOUBLED by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. That means your gift will go twice as far.

Thank you!

— Christopher Baxter, Spotlight PA CEO & President
 

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Friday, September 15, 2023
Public schools, Democracy Day, gun lawsuit, fracking legislation, poverty rate, older overdoses, and what it means to really be a sanctuary. It's Friday.
UNFAIR FUNDING

Months after a landmark court decision found Pennsylvania's public school funding system unconstitutional, a commission tasked with resolving statewide disparities held its first series of hearings this week.

The hearings kick off a process that could affect generations of students. But lawmakers said they're still far apart on bedrock issues, like how much additional cash they'll need to pump into the system. 

Read Spotlight PA's complete report on the first three hearings held in Allentown, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.

THE CONTEXT: School superintendents, union leaders, and education experts spoke to the lawmakers who make up the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission about a range of issues. The state of school facilities, student mental health, and labor conditions all came up repeatedly.

Lawmakers said they tried to enter the discussions with open minds. They will hold more hearings across the commonwealth over the next two months, and plan to release a report on their discussions by the end of November.

“In order for this commission to be effective, we cannot have a preconceived idea or notion of where this commission will go or what its outcome will be,” said state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R., York) who co-chairs the commission. “We may like what we hear, we may not like what we hear.”

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

“It kind of gets you to wonder, are we ever going to catch up? And if we are going to catch up, what is the process to ensure that we do?”

—Richard Hooker Jr., of Teamsters Local 623, on a study showing how far behind economic progress is for Black Americans since the Civil Rights Era, especially in Philadelphia.
AN URGENT TASK
We urgently need your help to make sure Spotlight PA's vital investigative and public-service reporting can continue.

The first 500 gifts of any amount made during our Fall Member Drive will be DOUBLED by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. This is a huge opportunity to leverage your gift and unlock HUGE matching support for Spotlight PA.

A big thanks to the 83 people who have given so far, including Claire K., who said, "Unbiased information about elections, candidates, and government is essential for a healthy state and nation."

Join Claire & contribute now »
 
📄 CAPITOL BRIEFS
» Recent escapes prompt Pa. lawmakers to introduce bills to improve jail security, via WESA
» Pennsylvania native sworn in as first female U.S. archivist, via Capital-Star
» U.S. court shields some contents from U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s phone records in Trump election probe, via Reuters
» GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson makes campaign stop in Harrisburg, via PennLive
 
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS
» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.
 
📷 POST IT
A deer pokes its head out from behind a bush in Lakeville, via Paul R. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.DEMOCRACY DAY: It's U.S. Democracy Day, and Spotlight PA is among many newsrooms participating by publishing coverage that shows "how democracy works and the threats it faces." To mark the occasion, we've relaunched our Election Center ahead of the Nov. 7 judicial races with candidate guides, key dates, and more. You can read more about our voter-centric approach to covering the upcoming election, as well as a note from our CEO Christopher Baxter about Spotlight PA's commitment to journalism that informs and equips people to drive change.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.PREEMPTION SUIT: Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is weighing whether to reinstate a case brought by Philadelphia and others challenging a state law that preempts municipalities from passing their own gun laws, WHYY reports. During arguments Wednesday, legal counsel for the city said residents are afraid to leave their homes because of a lack of gun regulations, and said the case was necessary because the state legislature has failed to act. 
 
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.DRILLING IMPACT: Amid mounting evidence that ties living near a fracking site to health issues, PublicSource provides an in-depth look at the struggles of residents in Washington County — the most heavily fracked in the state. Legislative efforts aimed at limiting how close drilling can be to homes have stalled in Harrisburg, leaving individuals and small towns to grapple with the issue alone.
 
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
POOREST CITY: The growth of post-pandemic inflation has overshadowed the gains of median household income for Philadelphia families, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Inquirer (paywall) reports the city remains among the poorest in the nation despite Philadelphia’s poverty rate being the lowest in nearly two decades. According to the estimates, the 21.7% rate for 2022 is down a percentage point from 2021. 
 
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.OLDER OVERDOSES: Of the 22 calls Dauphin County’s 911 logged this past weekend for overdoses, a “significant number” involved older people. PennLive reports the numbers reflect recent studies that found a rise in drug overdoses among seniors. In 2022, 60% of Dauphin County’s 63 fatal overdose victims were over 40 years old, according to a report from the coroner’s office.
Join Spotlight PA for a day of conversation about Pennsylvania's growing communities of color and their lack of representation.
🏆 SMART STUFF: Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news this week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: NFL lawsuit, court contests, Cavalcante captured, and surprise birds.
IN OTHER NEWS

POLICE DOG: Yoda is the name of the 4-year-old search dog who played a crucial role in capturing escaped fugitive Danelo Cavalcante Wednesday, the AP reports. 

NEXT STEP: Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted to make the city a sanctuary for gender-affirming care, but City Paper reports some local activists believe the bills are performative and lack input from the transgender community. 

LEGAL ACTION: A former Whitehall commissioner said he will take legal action after township officials voted to remove him from the board amid his stroke recovery, the Morning Call reports. 

BANNED CHEMICALS: Three chemical companies will pay Pennsylvania $100 million to settle claims that they contaminated the state’s waterways with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), WHYY reports. The money will be used to recover the cost of remediation. 

REINSTATED WORKERS: Two Pittsburgh Starbucks workers returned to work this week after the National Labor Relations Board ruled the coffee chain illegally fired them and two others, and tried to disrupt union organizing efforts, the Union Progress reports.

Corrections: Thursday's edition misspelled the name of University of Pennsylvania Professor Amy Wax in this section. It also misidentified the location of The Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Bucks County.

THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
H T L E L B E W R E

Yesterday's answer: Exuberance

Congrats to our daily winners: Tracy S., Beth T., Richard A., Hallie W., Jon W., Barbara F., Julie K., Jay H., Don H., Bob C., Becky C., Alex R., Ted W., Marty M., Judith D., Susan N., Johnny C., Kimberly D., Stanley J., Dan A., Vicki U., James B., Daniel M., Jane R., Geoff M., Chris P., Ben P., Eric F., Tish M., Susan D., Keith F., John P., William Z., John A., John E., Wendy A., and Carol S.
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