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|📣 PROGRAMMING NOTE: We're off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday. We'll be back in your inbox first thing Tuesday.
|Today: Funding gap, protection bill, SEPTA law, new section, legal help, COVID-19 impact, and a hobbit house in Elverson. Happy Friday.
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Pennsylvania will need to spend at least $5.4 billion to close the gap between rich and poor school districts, according to a long-awaited report approved by a divided panel of policymakers Thursday.
The report was backed by Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration and won near-unanimous support from legislative Democrats who served on the Basic Education Funding Commission.
It recommended changing the formula Pennsylvania uses to fund public schools to reduce year-over-year fluctuations in poorer districts’ state funding, while also calling for increased investments in school construction and an expansion of the education workforce.
Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pennsylvania needs to spend $5.4B to close gap between rich and poor schools, report advanced by Dems says.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE
“Part of the Philadelphia problem is a segregation problem and a city [versus] suburbs problem. And the problem then with the phrase ‘America’s poorest, largest city,’ is that it reinforces the stigma that causes that type of segregation.”
—Stephen Danley, the director of the Center for Urban Research and Education at Rutgers University-Camden, on the effect of calling Philadelphia “America’s poorest big city.”
|RICHEST LITTLE CITY: Join us Thursday, Jan. 25 from 6-7:15 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on the corruption case rocking this small Pennsylvania city and how local government can protect against wrongdoing. Register for the event here and submit your questions to email@example.com.
A sunrise peeking over Pittsburgh's Downtown area, via Spotlight PA's Tanisha Thomas. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
|SAFEGUARDS: With little fanfare, Gov. Josh Shapiro in December signed into law a bill aimed at fixing long-standing problems within Pennsylvania’s vexing system for safeguarding adults — many of them seniors — whom courts deem incapable of making critical life, health, and financial decisions for themselves. But as Spotlight PA reports, experts fear it won’t fix basic issues with the system.
LAW CHALLENGE: Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is suing to block a new state law that removes his authority over crimes on SEPTA property and requires the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Krasner said the new law is “politically motivated” and an attempt to remove power from an official elected by voters.
TACKLING TRAFFICKING: DEFENSE-LESS: A new study says that Schuylkill County’s Office of the Public Defender is severely understaffed and under-resourced, the Republican Herald reports. The county’s chief public defender told the paper a lack of state funding has hampered the office. As Spotlight PA recently reported, Pennsylvania lawmakers have agreed to spend $7.5 million to help fund these offices, an amount the report called “a drop in the bucket.”
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office launched a statewide human trafficking section
this week to improve how it investigates and prosecutes cases, KDKA reports. The section will collaborate with agencies on cases and provide training and education on how to recognize signs of sex trafficking and how to address them.
PANDEMIC LOSSES: Pennsylvania hospitals lost $5.3 billion in revenue and suffered severe staffing shortages during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report co-authored by the lobbying arm for the state’s health facilities. CNHI reports staff vacancy rates for positions including registered nurses averaged 30% by the end of 2022.
|DESIGN DIFFERENCES: Removing a William Penn statue from Welcome Park in Philadelphia was not a priority for the Native American tribes consulted by the National Park Service as part of a proposed redesign, per the AP.
NEW APPOINTMENT: Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker has hired a new deputy commissioner to oversee the department’s strategy in Kensington, a neighborhood grappling with addiction that has attracted national (and unwanted) attention.
HIKE HOLD: Broad Street Market won’t hike rents for the time being after receiving criticism from vendors still reeling from a devastating fire, PennLive reports.
HOBBIT HOUSE: Do you have $425,000 and want to live in a house that kinda, sorta looks like Bag End? Well, via the Daily Mail, it’s your lucky day.
NEW BID: In 2024 election news, state Rep. Dawn Keefer (R., York) is running for the state Senate seat currently held by Mike Regan; state Rep. Nick Pisciottano (D., Allegheny) wants to succeed state Sen. Jim Brewster.
Are you a Berks County resident? We're seeking community input! Join one of our upcoming Spotlight PA - Berks County listening sessions:
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 firstname.lastname@example.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
E T R D R O R E G A
Yesterday's answer: Duplicates
Congrats to our daily winners: Jody A., Kimberly D., Stacy S., Don H., Daniel M., Ada M., Mark C., Mike B., Richard A. Eric F., Judith D., Barbara F., Leslie B., Georgeann J., Susan N., Elaine C., Jon W., Kim C., Starr B., Adrien M., Marie B., Alan B., Daniel S., Tish M., John P., William Z., Linda C., Jane R., Jodi R., Toni D., Wendy A, and Marty M.