Alternative splicing (AS) is a critical regulatory layer, yet factors controlling functionally coordinated splicing programs during developmental transitions are poorly understood. Here, we employ a screening strategy to identify factors controlling dynamic splicing events important for neurogenesis. Among previously unknown regulators, Rbm38 acts widely to negatively control neural AS, in part through interactions mediated by the established repressor of splicing, Ptbp1. Puf60, a ubiquitous factor, is surprisingly found to promote neural splicing patterns. This activity requires a conserved, neural-differential exon that remodels Puf60 co-factor interactions. Ablation of this exon rewires distinct AS networks in embryonic stem cells and at different stages of neurogenesis. Single-cell transcriptome analyses further reveal distinct roles for Rbm38 and Puf60 isoforms in establishing neuronal identity. Our results describe important roles for previously unknown regulators of neurogenesis and further establish how an alternative exon in a widely expressed splicing factor orchestrates temporal control over cell differentiation.