Pennsylvania Republicans Get Played and Betrayed on School Choice

Pennsylvania continues to be a place of nightmares for Republicans. Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro, who ran in 2022 on being a strong supporter of school choice (an oddity in his party), has done an about-face and will now line-item veto the necessary funding to provide vouchers.

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That represents a capitulation to the teacher’s unions that lobbied the governor’s office. In all, $100 million will now be denied, locking students in failing schools. Democrat in the State House had previously demanded $750 million more in funding for public schools as a counter to the school voucher program.

Senate Republicans in the state put out the following statement in response.

The Senate Republican Caucus worked diligently to pass a bipartisan budget. We negotiated in good faith and were eager to stand with Governor Shapiro on one of his priority campaign commitments – supporting school choice opportunities. Today, Governor Shapiro has decided to betray the good faith agreement we reached, leaving tens of thousands of children across Pennsylvania in failing schools.

It is a shame the governor does not have enough respect and standing within his own party to follow through with his promise. Strong leadership requires the ability to bring people together, but instead we are met with Governor Shapiro’s failure to deliver his commitment to empower parents and give children access to educational opportunities.

We affirm that every child in Pennsylvania deserves the opportunity for a quality education, which is why our budget expanded educational programs and fully funded the governor’s requested amount for basic education for school districts at historic levels. As Governor Shapiro’s legal counsel noted, the General Appropriation bill is not the final step in the budget process. The Senate will continue to await legislative action by the House on the remaining budgetary components, to see what House Democrats, with the slimmest majority, are able to advance.

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This is the predictable end to trusting a Democrat. No one should be surprised by the fact that Shapiro would kowtow to the more radical elements of his party, stabbing Republicans in the back who had negotiated with him in good faith. School choice is a non-starter in the Democrat Party, which should have made Shapiro’s promises during the 2022 campaign laughable.

Now, Republicans are stuck. They’ve already passed the budget in the Senate, trusting Shapiro to follow through. By using a line-item veto, the governor will ensure Democrats get all the concessions that were negotiated while not having to live up to their part of the deal. There’s a lesson in that, and one Republicans should take seriously in any situation when it comes to making moves toward bi-partisanship without absolute guarantees.

This didn’t just happen in a vacuum, though. GOP voters decided to nominate Doug Mastriano, a deeply unpopular and controversial figure in the state, to run against Shapiro during the last election. The latter ended up walking to victory in a landslide, and Pennsylvania has drifted more leftward since. Elections have consequences, and that starts in the primaries. What makes a voter feel good at the moment isn’t always what’s best. Certainly, it’s not always what delivers the policy wins needed. Republicans should ponder how we got here, and perhaps learn a few things along the way.

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