News & Brews March 30, 2021

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Field of Democrat Senate candidates grows

The Philly Inquirer reports that Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh is expected to join the contest for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. Arkoosh would become the third elected Democrat to join the race, alongside Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. But the Dem field is hardly complete, and the Inquirer notes that “[p]olitical insiders are closely watching signals from Philadelphia-area Democratic U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan and the Pittsburgh area’s Conor Lamb.” On the Republican side, former Lt. Gov. candidate Jeff Bartos, Chester County businessman Everett Stern, and Montgomery County attorney Sean Gale have already announced their candidacies, with several other Republicans considering runs.

Gov’t unions spent >$16M in PA during last election cycle

During the 2019-20 election cycle, public sector unions spent $16.7 million in Pennsylvania, with the vast majority going to Democrat politicians, according to a new analysis from the Commonwealth Foundation. The analysis looks at who’s getting money, how much, and how government unions are “increasingly channel[ing] their political activities through donations to SuperPACs and ideological nonprofits.”

In Philly, wealthy can put kids in private schools; others are stuck

Perhaps unintentionally, this story from WHYY lays out perfectly the need to expand educational opportunity in Pennsylvania. The piece reports that virtual learning is pushing wealthier families to take their kids out of the Philadelphia School District and either enroll them in private schools or move to areas where district schools are open for in-person learning. The story notes that “unlike those with means, low-income families — who make up the majority of the population of the school district — have few options if they disagree with the pace of the school district’s reopening.” Of course, this scenario is not unique to Philly. Here’s what the story leaves out: Legislation like the Excellence in Education for All Act would remedy this problem by giving families a wide variety of options. Separately, the In-Person Education Act would require that “schools with no in-person instruction must give families an option to use their child’s share of state education funding to access educational alternatives.”

WSJ Editorial: States with school choice have better test results

Speaking of educational opportunity, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial highlights a new study that found that states offering more educational options to families have better test results on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Notably–and contrary to the narrative of public school districts and unions–the study also found “a statistically significant negative correlation between per-pupil spending and NAEP scores.” Maybe all that clamoring for more money for “the system” isn’t the answer. Who would have thought…?

Op-Ed: On May 18, voters can restore local control

The Commonwealth Foundation’s Nathan Benefield has an op-ed in PennLive noting Gov. Wolf has wielded “unchecked authority” during COVID to issue orders that have “burdened small businesses, schools, families, and healthcare providers.” Benefield writes that by supporting the constitutional amendments on the ballot on May 18, voters can “restore local control, support families, and secure our communities as they rebuild.”

Applicants sought for legislative redistricting chair

Here’s a once-in-a-decade opportunity. The four current members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, and House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton) are seeking someone to serve as chair of the five-member commission. Read the announcement here.

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