Pennsylvania’s U-Turn on School Choice

Happy Wednesday! It took him about two months and several botched attempts, but a hearty congratulations to GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama for finally saying these words in this order: “White nationalists are racists.”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Soltenberg announced Tuesday that NATO won’t require Ukraine to fulfill a “Membership Action Plan”—a potentially multi-year slate of military reforms and other conditions—to join the alliance, but didn’t offer a timeline for membership and said Ukraine will be invited only “when allies agree and conditions are met.” Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. intends to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, pending congressional approval. The announcement came shortly after Turkey dropped its opposition to Sweden’s NATO accession, though Sullivan resisted connecting the two steps. 
  • The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tuesday against Serbian spy chief Aleksander Vulin, accusing him of “corrupt and destabilizing acts” including illegal arms shipments, drug trafficking, and support for Russia’s efforts to undermine stability in the Western Balkans. Vulin served as Serbia’s interior and defense minister before becoming spy chief in December, and has led the country in its refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia.
  • Two 26-member grand jury panels were chosen in Atlanta on Tuesday, one of which is likely to decide whether to issue indictments in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state.
  • The Department of Justice said in a court filing Tuesday that Trump was not acting within the scope of his job in making comments about writer E. Jean Carroll while president—and so should not be immune from personal liability in her defamation lawsuit. A jury has already found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation related to remarks he made after his presidency, but the Justice Department’s reversal will allow a second defamation lawsuit from Carroll—related to comments Trump made while president in 2019—to proceed.
  • A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to block Microsoft’s acquisition of video game publisher Activision Blizzard, ruling the $69 billion purchase could move forward. The court said the FTC—which, under Chair Lina Khan, has made policing Big Tech one of its signature issues—had failed to show evidence the merger would reduce competition in the video game industry. With the U.S. obstacle out of the way, Microsoft has agreed to pause its legal battle with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority to continue negotiations to satisfy the U.K. regulator. 
  • Heavy rains across the northeast this week caused significant flooding in New York’s Hudson Valley and Vermont, closing the downtown area of Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, and killing at least one person. Some parts of New York saw twice as much rain in a day than is typical in the entire month of July. More rain is expected throughout the week.

Pennsylvania Teachers’ Unions Flex Their Muscle

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro in Philadelphia. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro in Philadelphia. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)

Josh Shapiro staked out a bold position for a Democrat as he was running for governor in Pennsylvania last year. “Josh believes parents deserve to be empowered to ensure their kids receive a good education and that every child has access to quality learning,” his campaign website read. “[He] favors adding choices for parents and educational opportunity for students and funding lifeline scholarships like those approved in other states and introduced in Pennsylvania.”

School voucher programs—even targeted ones like the Lifeline Scholarships Shapiro’s website was referencing—are anathema to the teachers’ unions that hold an inordinate amount of sway in Democratic politics. But Shapiro backed them anyway on his way to a 15-point victory over the Trump-aligned Republican Doug Mastriano last fall. “I’m for fully funding public education,” he told reporters in September. “I’m for making sure we give parents the ability [to] put their kids in the best situation for them to be able to succeed.”

A 50-year-old former attorney general with bipartisan appeal, Shapiro began receiving presidential plaudits within days of being sworn into office as governor of the swing state. His first few months on the job—during which he eliminated college-degree requirements for thousands of government roles and oversaw a widely praised response to the collapse and rebuilding of a stretch of highway—did little to dampen that image, as he maintained a +34 net approval rating in late June. But his decision last week to abandon the school voucher program he championed in the face of Democratic opposition could leave a mark. 

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