News & Brews March 31, 2023

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Western Pa. politicos react to Trump indictment

After a NY state grand jury indicted former President Trump yesterday, western Pa. politicos offered their reactions. These reactions ranged from saying “no one is above the law” to decrying “the use of the justice system as a political weapon.”

With 2 special elections in May, Dems expected to keep majority

House Democrats hold a slim, one-vote majority, and two upcoming special elections are not expected to change that—although Republicans are aiming to flip a key southeast seat. In the Delaware County district formerly represented by Democrat Mike Zabel—who resigned after multiple accusations of sexual harassment—two women are vying for the win. The district is majority Democrat, but the Inquirer reports that “Republicans hope Zabel’s harassment scandal and the Democrats’ handling of it could also factor into the race.” Meanwhile, a vacant House seat in Montour and Northumberland counties is expected to remain in Republican hands.

Op-Ed: ‘Students flee, but money keeps coming’

“Opponents of educational choice programs often complain that they divert money from public schools…. In reality, a practice called phantom funding often gives failing schools money for students who don’t attend.” So explains Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform and director of the Yass Foundation for Education, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In Philadelphia, for example, the district in 2022 “reported $2.9 billion in education funding, slightly more after inflation than in the previous year, even though enrollment had declined 2%. Spending was up $798 million since 2016, when the district had 16,000 more students and 3,000 fewer staff members.”

Allegheny & Philly population drops among nation’s steepest

The Post-Gazette reports that according to recently released Census data, “more than 12,000 people left … [Allegheny] county last year — about a 1% drop — landing it in the top 10 counties for population loss between July 2021 and 2022.” While Allegheny County landed at #10 on the list, Philadelphia was #6, with a 2021-22 population drop of 22,222. Indeed, “Pennsylvania was among the hardest hit states. Overall, it experienced a loss of more than 40,000 residents — the fourth-largest drop across the United States.”

Study: States with less restrictive COVID policies performed better

The Paragon Health Institute released a paper last month that “compares a quantitative measure of government interventions from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker … to health, economic, and educational outcome measures in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” The study found “that more severe government interventions … did not significantly improve health outcomes … in states that imposed them relative to states that imposed less restrictive measures. But the severity of the government response was strongly correlated with worse economic … and educational … outcomes….”

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