School Funding Lawsuit Still Unresolved

August 16, 2022 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

School buses sit in a garage during the summer vacation. (File photo by Jason Morrison via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-2.0.)

After eight years, the Pennsylvania school-funding lawsuit is in the hands of a judge, creating a waiting game heading into the new school year.

Oral argument ended in July.

In 2014, six Pennsylvania school districts sued state legislative officials, state education officials and Gov. Tom Wolf, alleging that the state’s school funding system violates the clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution that promises to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education.

The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP-Pennsylvania State Conference and a group of public school parents are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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Pipeline Co. Convicted of Criminal Charges

August 05, 2022 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

The companies behind the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline that crosses through the Mon-Yough area have been convicted of criminal charges related to the project.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Sunoco Pipeline LP and ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC have pleaded no contest to charges related to contamination of lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater during the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The Mariner East 2 pipeline, which goes through 17 southern Pennsylvania counties, crosses Forward Twp. and passes near communities such as Sutersville, West Newton and Finleyville. It parallels an older gasoline pipeline built in the 1930s.

Homeowners who live in the pipeline’s path and want to have their water tested have until Aug. 19 to file a request.

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PA Court: ‘No-Excuse’ Mail Voting Can Continue

August 05, 2022 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: Politics & Elections, State & Region

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled this week that so-called “no excuse” mail-in voting in the state is constitutional.

The ruling is seen as a setback to 14 Republican lawmakers who challenged the expansion of absentee ballots in court.

Meg Pierce, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said mail-in ballots are important to ensure elections are accessible to everyone.

“Voting by mail is convenient and secure, and has resulted in an incredible boost in voter turnout in Pennsylvania's recent election,” Pierce said. “About 170,000 (additional) registered voters voted in Pennsylvania elections when they were allowed to vote by mail.”

Until 2019, Pennsylvania voters could only use an absentee ballot under certain conditions, such as illness, disability or being out of town on Election Day. That year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted to implement “no excuse” mail-in ballots for anyone who requests them.

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Report: Pa. Funding for Disabled Students Lacking

June 06, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

As the number of Pennsylvania students with disabilities rises, a new report says the share of state education funding has declined. Education advocates say state lawmakers can use this year’s budget surplus to support the students.

In 2008, Pennsylvania contributed close to one-third of the total cost of special education, but by 2020 that amount dropped to 22 percent.

And meanwhile, costs have gone up for every school district, according to Sharon Ward, senior policy advisor with the Education Law Center, which published the report.

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Charter School Tuition Gets Statewide Attention

May 31, 2022 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, State & Region

With charter school tuition payments rising faster than enrollments, public school districts are asking the Pennsylvania state legislature for relief.

According to Pennsylvania’s quarter-century-old law, charter schools do not charge students tuition. Instead, the majority of charter school funding comes from each student’s district of residence.

But local charter school officials said that their facilities serve poor students and fill vital educational needs in the communities where they operate. One local charter administrator who asked not to be identified by name said their school and others like it are getting “a bad rap.”

McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. is one of the local officials who have been calling attention to the expense that public school systems incur from charters.

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Advocates Urge Family, Friends: ‘Be There’ for Vets

May 25, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

May marks both Mental Health Awareness Month and Military Appreciation Month. In Pennsylvania, officials want to ensure that veterans know mental-health and substance-use resources are available.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 800,000 military veterans, the fourth-largest veteran population in the country.

Rick Hamp, special assistant to the deputy adjutant general for veteran affairs at the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, leads military suicide-prevention efforts in the state.

He said veterans sometimes can face stigma if they speak openly about struggles with anxiety or depression. Knowing a loved one supports them can help, Hamp said.

“Always be there for your family members and for those around you,” he said. “You know what’s normal for a person, and if they don’t look normal, don’t be afraid to ask the question, ‘Are you OK?’ That is the start of helping a person. And be ready when they reply, ‘No, I’m not.’”

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Pa. Officials Welcome Action on ‘Ghost Guns’

May 03, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Pennsylvania stands ready to implement a new Biden administration federal rule on ghost-gun regulations at the state level.

Ghost guns are unserialized firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home, making them untraceable. The Biden regulation will ensure partially manufactured frames and receivers require a background check at the point of sale, along with requiring dealers and gunsmiths in the state to serialize and inventory any unregistered firearms coming into their businesses.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said ghost guns are fueling the gun-violence crisis in the state.

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U.S. Ukrainian Bishop Returns from European Visit

April 20, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

The Most Rev. Bohdan Danylo, Ukrainian Catholic bishop of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat, visited the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this month. (Photo courtesy Eparchy of St. Josaphat)

Ahead of the Easter holiday, a Ukrainian Catholic bishop based in the U.S. visited the country’s border.

The Most Rev. Bohdan Danylo of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat, which includes St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Eden Park Boulevard and other western Pennsylvania parishes, was at the Poland-Ukraine border for a week.

He visited the Polish border city of Przemysl, his childhood home, which has become a major entry point for displaced Ukrainians.

Danylo said along with sharing donations and meeting with clergy and volunteers, he wanted to bring back to the U.S. the realities of what Ukrainians are facing.

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Pa. Lawmakers: Tariffs Key to Strong Steel Industry

March 25, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

The United States and the United Kingdom have struck a deal to remove U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum along with U.K. tariffs on U.S. bluejeans, whiskey and motorcycles.

Some Pennsylvania lawmakers said the steel tariffs have been key to leveling the global playing field. In 2018, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act was used to impose 25 percent and 10 percent tariffs, respectively, on some steel and aluminum imports to stabilize domestic production.

State Rep. Frank Burns, a Johnstown Democrat and co-chair of the House Steel Caucus, said the federal government should be cautious about easing tariffs on some countries.

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Pa. Aid Society Seeks Help for Ukrainian Families

March 08, 2022 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf greets Iryna Mazur, Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia, during a press conference Monday in Harrisburg. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania photo)

A Pennsylvania group that helps resettle refugees is asking federal officials to provide more support to people fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS Pennsylvania, said Ukrainian refugees already here are worried about their relatives still in the country.

“The family petitions require processing at a U.S. embassy, and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is closed,” said Miller-Wilson. “But, I mean, it will take a long time. The Ukrainian has to successfully flee and then get in touch with their relatives here. The paperwork has to be filed. It’s a very, very long process.”

Pennsylvania has the second-highest Ukrainian population of any U.S. state, with more than 122,000 citizens claiming Ukrainian heritage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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