News & Brews June 30, 2023

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Pa. Senate passes historic school choice legislation

The state Senate yesterday voted 29-21 to establish the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program, or PASS. The bill would give students in low-performing public schools a lifeline to access an education that meets their needs. (Indeed, the legislation is basically Lifeline Scholarships under a different name.). Democrat Sen. Anthony Williams of Philadelphia joined all Republicans in voting to rescue kids. Gov. Shapiro has said he supports the program, provided it’s passed as part of the overall budget and not as separate legislation. House Democrats are balking at it. Meanwhile, budget negotiations continue (see next item).

With budget deadline here, agreement is ‘elusive’

The AP reports that Gov. Shapiro and lawmakers are “on track … to start the state’s fiscal year without a spending plan in place, with closed-door talks yielding optimism from Republicans, but discontent from Democrats.” The main sticking point is Shapiro’s support for giving children trapped in low-performing schools a chance at a better education. Most Democrats and their union backers strongly oppose giving families and kids this choice.

Dozens of state and national leaders/influencers urge support for Lifeline Scholarships

A coalition “65 heavy hitters” sent a letter urging Gov. Shapiro and lawmakers to implement Lifeline Scholarships in Pa. The list of signatories includes “rap artist Meek Mill, music industry mogul Troy Carter, Live Nation Urban’s Shawn Gee, … former U.S. education secretaries,” and more. The letter comes as scholarships have become the major sticking point in this year’s budget negotiations. House Democrat leaders are hoping to roadblock the opportunity, even as Shapiro and Senate Republicans (along with Democrat. Sen. Tony Williams) have endorsed it.

Pa. Dems blast SCOTUS ruling striking affirmative action 

Democrat state lawmakers yesterday reacted to the 6-3 Supreme Court ruling that affirmative action on college campuses violates the Constitution. Sen. Vincent Hughes (Montgomery and Philadelphia counties) said, ”D*mn the U.S. Supreme Court and its decision!.” And Sen. Art Haywood (Montgomery and Philadelphia counties) accused the court of “mak[ing] way for new 21st-century segregation.” The court ruled that colleges and universities may not use race as a factor for admission.

SCOTUS upholds religious freedom in case of former Pa. mail carrier

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled unanimously in favor of a former Pa. postal worker who declined to work Sundays because of religious conviction. Specifically, the court sent the case back to a lower court. But SCOTUS clarified that workers seeking religious accommodations “should have their requests honored unless employers show that doing so would result in ‘substantial increased costs’ to the business,” the AP reports. Read the unanimous decision here.

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