News & Brews August 23, 2023

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School choice — from students’ perspectives

We often hear parents, advocates, and lawmakers speak of the deep benefits of educational opportunity. But it’s also powerful to hear from students who have benefited from school choice. Bishop McDevitt High School graduate R. Myles Slade-Bowers has an op-ed in PennLive sharing the impact a tax credit scholarship had on his education and life. And Jaslin Vasquez-Gonzalez, a graduate of Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, shares in Broad + Liberty how a scholarship enabled her to escape her “notoriously violent” neighborhood public school and how Lifeline Scholarships could also save other children. Check out even more Voices for Choice here.

Back to school Pa. education trends

Fewer students, more teachers, record money. It may not be exactly the education narrative the mainstream media usually delivers. But yesterday, the Commonwealth Foundation released Pa. Back to School Public Education Trends. Among them: Public school spending in Pa. is at a record high at more than $21,000 per student. Since 2000, enrollment has dropped but the number of employees has risen. And school districts have nearly $6 billion in reserve funds.

Here’s what’s in limbo as lawmakers continue budget negotiations

Spotlight PA gives a rundown of the programs still “on hold” as lawmakers work on finalizing the state budget. The $1.1 billion that requires implementation language includes funding for the poorest school districts, hospital relief, a home repair program, and public defense. The Senate plans to return to session next week to work on the implementation “code” bills. At this point, the House isn’t scheduled to return until Sept. 26. Yesterday, however, a House Democrat spokesperson said they “are not foreclosing on the possibility that we may return sooner if an agreement is reached.” The major holdup, of course, is House Democrats’ opposition to helping kids escape failing and often violent schools. Had they been willing to help kids, the budget would have been done weeks ago.

Business leaders, lawmakers work for permitting reform 

City & State PA reports on a bipartisan effort to enact permitting reform in Pa. GOP Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (York County) and Democrat Sen. Lisa Boscola (Lehigh and Northampton counties) are championing efforts to reduce permitting delays. “Whether it’s building roads, houses, pipelines, solar fields, energy, broadband – you name it. These delays can often make or break a project,” Boscola said. Business leaders are also backing the effort. PA Chamber of Business & Industry President and CEO Luke Bernstein suggested the state should also “allow for third-party reviews of permit applications, increase transparency during the application process and overhaul how permit appeals are handled,” the story explains.

Pa. Supreme Court says state police can’t hide policy for monitoring social media

Yesterday, the Pa. Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the “state police can’t hide from the public its policy on how it monitors social media,” the AP reports. The police “had argued that fully disclosing its policy for using software to monitor online postings may compromise public safety.” All four Democrat justices ruled in the majority. The court’s two Republicans—Justices Sallie Mundy and Kevin Brobson—sided with a lower Commonwealth Court ruling. That ruling had “reversed the Office of Open Records’ ruling that the policy should be disclosed without redactions, saying … that the state police investigations chief based his analysis about the risk of exposure on his own extensive experience.”

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