News & Brews August 20, 2021

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Lawmakers highlight school choice bill focusing on students, not systems

Yesterday, Rep. Andrew Lewis (Dauphin County) led a press conference focusing on his Excellence in Education for All Act (HB1), a comprehensive education bill that would empower parents to choose the best educational opportunity for their children. Calling the bill a “game changer,” Lewis stated, “The time has finally come to break down the barriers to an excellent education and focus in Pennsylvania on funding students, not on unaccountable systems.” PennLive has more.

PA hiring 100 COVID contact tracers to replace 1,000

Following the debacle of the Department of Health contact tracing vendor that leaked the private health information of 72,000 Pennsylvanians, the state is working with a new vendor (through another no-bid contract) and is hiring 100 contact tracers to replace the 1,000 outlined under the previous vendor, Spotlight PA reports. While some claim the new number isn’t enough, others continue to have concerns over the process by which the Wolf administration selected both the previous and current vendors.

Op-Ed: Understanding this year’s judicial elections

To steal (again) one of Gov. Wolf’s favorite lines, “I’m not a lawyer.” Nevertheless, I went ahead and broke down this year’s judicial elections in an op-ed for Broad + Liberty, explaining the difference between the various appellate courts and giving the lay of the land for this year’s races. Just call me Esq. (Actually, please don’t.)

Op-Ed: Use GARVEEs to fund transportation projects

Sen. Bob Mensch (Berks, Bucks, and Montgomery counties) has an op-ed in the Delaware Valley Journal laying out a case for using a Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle program (or GARVEE) to fund repairs and maintenance for Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges. Mensch writes that GARVEEs are “essentially a form of federal debt financing,” and they “spread the cost of construction of roads, bridges, or any other transportation project over the period of the project’s useful life – rather than just over the construction period.” Read Sen. Mensch’s piece here. Meanwhile, PennLive reports that PA business groups are urging the U.S. House to pass the $1T infrastructure bill, eyeing the potential windfall for PA. (Note: Commonwealth Partners is not among these groups.)

Debate continues over where to count prisoners for redistricting

The Tribune-Democrat outlines the question of where prisoners should be counted for the purposes of redistricting—whether the location of the prison where they are housed or the location where they lived prior to their arrest. While in some instances, the answer to this question would have little impact on districts; in other cases, the impact could be more substantial.

Teacher sues union for demanding pay after he resigned

The Commonwealth Foundation’s Kevin Mooney has a piece in The Federalist noting that teachers unions in Pennsylvania are trying to force teachers to pay fees to the union, even after the teachers have resigned their membership. This despite the 2018 Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME ruling prohibiting unions from demanding such fees as a condition of employment.

Philly school board to vote on vaccine mandate for staff

Next week, the Philadelphia School Board is slated to vote on whether to mandate that district staff receive the COVID vaccine before the start of the school year. According to Superintendent William Hite, who supports the mandate, the actual resolution containing the mandate will likely be made public today, with a vote taking place Tuesday. Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the union representing about 13,000 district employees, also supports the mandate.

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