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Fetterman, Bartos are outraising competitors for Pa.'s open U.S. Senate seat

Mark Tenally

On today’s program: WESA’s Lucy Perkins breaks down the latest fundraising data for candidates vying to fill outgoing U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s seat; David Card, an economics professor from the University of California-Berkeley, will receive a Nobel Prize for his body of work of which includes a landmark minimum wage study that took place in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and how public school districts across the country are addressing the bus driver shortage. 

Candidates for U.S. Senate have raised millions of dollars in campaign donations, thus far
(0:00 - 7:16)

The race to replace outgoing Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in 2022 is heating up.

So far, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has raised over $6 million, according to the latest financial disclosures.

WESA government and accountability reporter Lucy Perkins analyzed fundraising for the first two quarters of the year; the third-quarter breakdown will come out later this week.

Perkins says Fetterman might have had a leg up on fundraising because he announced his candidacy in early 2021.

“He announced long before Congressman Conor Lamb announced he was running; Lamb announced in August, which was six months after Fetterman did,” says Perkins. So far Lamb has raised $1.4 million, and candidate Malcolm Kenyatta has yet to crack a million dollars in fundraising.

On the Republican side, candidates include Jeff Bartos, former candidate for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor, Kathy Barnette, and western Pennsylvanian Sean Parnell, who lost a run for office in 2020 to Congressman Lamb.

“Right now, Bartos is leading by over a million dollars,” says Perkins. In total, Bartos has raised about $2 million. Barnette and Parnell have raised about half a million dollars each so far.

Perkins says like Fetterman, Bartos announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat the earliest out of the three.

“Often it’s easy to think the candidate who has the most money has the most support, but what we need to remember is that some of these candidates … have a national profile, so while they may be able to raise more money, some of these donors can’t actually vote in the election that they’re running for,” says Perkins.

So far, 61% of Fetterman’s campaign contributions are from Pennsylvanians; 43% of Lamb’s contributions are from in-state donors; and 37% of Kenyatta’s fundraising has come from in-state donors.

On the Republican side, 81% of Bartos’ contributions are from in-state; 78% of Barnette’s are from residents; and Parnell, like his former opponent Conor Lamb, has received 43% of his donations from in-state residents.

With new finance reports coming out this week, Perkins says she’ll look out for how much more money is flooding into this influential seat, and the amount of new donations coming from within and outside the commonwealth.

An economist who observed minimum wage effects between Pennsylvania and New Jersey has won the Nobel prize
(7:18 - 13:21)

Three U.S-based economists have won the 2021 Nobel prize for economics for work on drawing conclusions from unintended experiments, or so-called "natural experiments."

The winners include David Card, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley; Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Guido Imbens of Stanford University.

Card received the award for research that came two decades ago, when he conducted a landmark study that challenged the prevailing narrative that increasing wages had adverse effects on employment.

Card was a guest on The Confluence back in March to talk about his research on the minimum wage.

Solutions for student transportation could trigger more education innovations, says policy researcher
(13:25 - 22:30)

Pittsburgh Public Schools continues to face a transportation issue with the district lacking enough bus seats to get all their students to school.

This isn’t simply a Pittsburgh issue. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently called on almost 375,000 people with commercial drivers licenses across the state to encourage them to become bus drivers, and across the country, districts are trying to resolve this problem.

One possible solution is to completely rethink how students get to school.

“There’s a dramatic competition now for … labor that doesn’t necessarily require a college degree,” explains Chad Aldeman, the policy director for the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. He says regarding the school bus driver shortage, there’s a limit to the number of people with commercial drivers’ licenses.

“There’s no differentiation between a commercial drivers license and people who can drive a school bus versus people who drive an Amazon delivery truck.”

Aldeman co-authored a piece in The 74, a non-profit news site that covers education, suggesting districts are coming up with more unique solutions than simply increasing pay or bonuses.

“Bozeman, Montana allows workers to either bring their children along on the bus with them if they want to,” says Aldeman. “Or if they’re college students, Bozeman will actually pay for the students to have a parking spot at the local college campus [to park the bus during the day].”

In some areas, districts are also considering what Aldeman calls “co-production,” in which the entity responsible for providing a service (districts) partners with those meant to receive the service (caregivers and students). Alderman says the latest example is districts paying parents to get their children to school.

This is a policy Pittsburgh Public Schools has adopted, paying parents $10 or $20 a day for dropping off and picking up their students, depending on the distance from school to home.

“From the districts perspective, they’re actually maybe saving money because the bus service might cost more, they’re able to consolidate their routes and focus on the ones that are the highest demand,” says Aldeman “From parents’ perspective, it might be a way that they’re willing to take the deal if that is extra money from them and it’s not too inconvenient.”

Alderman says the benefit of co-production could mean parents become better partners with schools in supporting their child's education. It could, for example, motivate parents to keep their children engaged in homework or working on other skills outside of school.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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