There is the making of an interesting debate between the gubernatorial candidates. GOP nominee Scott Wagner has latched onto comments made by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf about fairly funding schools to make the claim that the governor wants to take money out of primarily Republican school districts and give it to districts that for the most part are home to Wolf supporters. Wolf, who ran against then-Gov. Tom Corbett in 2014 in part on reversing Corbett’s disastrous cuts to the state’s education system, points to his record as an education advocate, including restoring funding to pre-Corbett levels.

So who’s right?

They both are. The 2015 fair funding formula, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, would lead to districts in Western PA – especially Pittsburgh – seeing their share of monies drop in favor of other districts, most notably Philadelphia. But Wagner's Chicken Little tactics claiming that the governor wants to immediately begin shifting funding is inaccurate.

Wolf has put his money where his campaign promises were by continually battling for more education dollars during his first term. He is on record as supporting “a fair funding formula for all dollars going into public education.” The question of how to accomplish that without hurting some school district budgets remains unanswered, though.

Between implementing the fair funding formula, shrinking districts that receive funding via a “hold harmless” provision, rising property taxes being used by districts desperate to plug funding gaps – and the movement to abolish such taxes, just to name a few flashpoints – a substantive debate on the future of education funding in the commonwealth is needed. Let's hope we get one.

 

WINNERS

Ron DiNicola: Must be something in the water, as the Cook Political Report roiled a PA race for the second time in two weeks as it changed its ranking on the redrawn PA-16 Congressional race, stretching from Butler County to Erie County, from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” Democratic candidate DiNicola still has a heavy lift to unseat GOP incumbent Mike Kelly: the region went for President Donald Trump in a big way in 2016, giving him 58 percent of the vote.

Rebecca Rhynhart: No doubt, the Philadelphia City Controller will wind up in the bottom half at some point, but seriously – how do you not give her the W for auditing the Philadelphia Parking Authority? Get the popcorn ready for what is sure to be the back catalog of Vince Fenerty’s greatest hits – the unreleased version.

Mama Bears: This group of Delaware County mothers and grandmothers has become the new face of opposition to the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will run through neighborhoods and near homes and schools in the county, despite a raft of studies questioning the safety record both of Sunoco, which s building the pipeline, and of transporting highly volatile gas liquids just feet from homes and elementary schools. The Mama Bear Brigade ratcheted up the heat on both Sunoco and the Wolf administration by holding a sit-in at a pipeline construction site that resulted in the arrest of two members.

 

LOSERS

Temple University: Kinda makes the bad publicity from the amateur-hour efforts to ramrod a stadium through neighborhood opposition seem like good times. AG Josh Shapiro succinctly laid out the gravity of allegations that the university’s Fox Business School had knowingly provided false information to improve its ranking and to attract students for years when he submitted a letter to university president Richard Englert that said in part: “It is especially troubling to learn that an institution entrusted with significant commonwealth funding to educate our citizens is alleged to have so flagrantly violated the trust of students, families and taxpayers alike.”

Scott Wagner: Dude. Your erstwhile primary opponent Paul Mango was pilloried and parodied for canoodling in a Q&A with controversial pastor Hyung Jin Sean Moonduring the primary. Just a couple months ago. And the lesson imparted to you from this was … to have him give the invocation at a meet-and-greet for a campaign event? And then to weak-sauce walkback the whole thing? OK.

Turahn Jenkins: Now that was a short honeymoon. Just days after announcing he would challenge incumbent Allegheny County DA Stephen Zappala, Jenkins is facing calls to end his campaign after a meeting with LGBTQ advocates where, according to attendees, he said that “being gay or trans was a sin and compared it to adultery.”