Get caught up on the week that was.
Last week, Governor Wolf signed a bill that changes Pennsylvania’s education funding formula — sort of.
So much is happening in education funding in Pennsylvania that it can be hard to keep up. The good news is, we’ve got reporter Kevin McCorry on the case. He’s got an explainer that, well, explains some of the more complicated concepts up for debate. Don’t know your “hold harmless” from your “student-weighted formulas”? Get caught up, but don’t worry — there’s no final exam.
But even as some things change, others stay the same. A survey of superintendents and business officials from Pennsylvania school districts paint a bleak picture of funding. Many are planning service cuts, increased class sizes and staff layoffs, or tax hikes to make up the difference. Last year’s budget impasse didn’t help, causing some poorer districts to rely on expensive loans to keep the lights on.
One district is having an issue that has nothing to do with dollar signs. The new superintendent in Pittsburgh has come under fire for misrepresentations on his resume, and possible plagiarism. Anthony Hamlet was hired from Florida on May 18, and will begin a five-year contract on July 1 at a salary of $210,000 per year.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Palm Beach Post collaborated to question the school improvement data that Hamlet provided on his resume. Additionally, his educational philosophy, listed on his resume, also appeared in a Washington Post op-ed written by someone else.
The school board planned to meet on Friday to discuss the issue.
Rallies, protests, and parades could be coming soon to a Pennsylvania city near you.
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making their way to the Keystone state. The presumptive Republican nominee will be in Pittsburgh on Sunday, hosting a rally at the Pittsburgh Airport. The presumptive Democratic nominee will be in the same city on Tuesday, attending a fundraiser hosted by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, among other stops.
Also in Pittsburgh, police officers unhappy with their new contract planned a protest for City Hall on Friday. Like the law-abiding citizens they are, the officers applied for and were granted a permit. They then cancelled the event after learning that Mayor Bill Peduto would not be at City Hall on Friday. He will be in Washington lobbying for a transportation grant for the city.
And Philadelphia is preparing for the Democratic National Convention, coming this July. Former mayor and governor Ed Rendell told Buzzfeed last week that the DNC was $10 million short on the fundraising front, but that hasn’t stopped the city from covering all their bases.
The city is getting “law enforcement liability insurance,” which is about as ominous as it sounds. Also known as protest or riot insurance, it would cover the city in case of allegations of police brutality or civil rights violations. Apparently, these allegations — and resulting lawsuits — are so common during these types of events, there’s an entire industry built around guarding the city from financial consequences.
Feeling a little downtrodden by the electoral process? How about some good, old-fashioned direct democracy? That’s what they do in Vermont, where town meetings are held once a month. These meetings allow residents to bring up issues, vote on financial issues and have a direct say in the governance of their town.
That probably sounds really appealing if you’re one of the many Pennsylvania residents who feels like their voice isn’t being heard. Like the state’s poorest residents, who are largely left out of the political discussion on the presidential level. Besides some broad, sweeping statements, the issue of poverty hasn’t been directly addressed by presidential candidates, and certainly not with specifics.
Residents in Allentown are getting involved in the revitalization of their city, but it might take more than a little community activism to bring the city back to life. The ongoing FBI investigation into City Hall certainly isn’t helping. Some local business owners say the investigation has cast a dark cloud over economic development. Others say it’s business as usual.
Get something to drink
Depending on where you live, your drink choices — and the ease of purchasing them — maybe changing soon.
Buying wine is getting a lot easier as Pennsylvania changes one of it’s more unique laws. Gov. Wolf signed a bill on Wednesday that will allow the sale of wine at grocery stores and the sale of liquor at state stores on Sundays and holidays. There are other changes as well, but let’s be honest: I stopped paying attention once I learned Trader Joe’s might start stocking two buck Chuck.
If you’re in Philadelphia, though, your drink options may be getting more expensive. The city has been embroiled in a debate about the so-called “soda tax” that would add 3 cents per ounce to soda, juice or any sugar-sweetened beverage. The revenue would go towards programs like universal Pre-K. Philly Magazine has a (slightly NSFW) rundown on the debate.
On Wednesday, city council approved an amended version of the bill, adding a 1.5 cent per ounce tax. This is entirely speculative, but I’m thinking Mayor Kenney may have used the old salary negotiation tactic: ask for more than you expect to get, and you’ll still be pleased with where they settle.
Either way, Philadelphia would be the first major city in the country to enact a soda tax.