Pennsylvania Republicans’ School Choice Victory Turns to Defeat

Pennsylvania is still a nightmare for Republicans. Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro has changed his mind. He ran for office in 2022 as a strong advocate of school choice, which was an oddity within his party. Now he will line-item-veto any funding necessary to provide vouchers.

This is a capitulation in the face of the teacher’s associations who lobbied for the governor’s offices. All told, 100 million dollars will be denied to students, who are now stuck in failing schools. Democrats in the State House demanded an additional $750 million in funding to counter the school voucher program.

In response, the Senate Republicans of the state issued the following statement.

The Senate Republican Caucus has worked hard to pass a budget that is bipartisan. We negotiated with Governor Shapiro in good faith, and we were ready to support him on his top campaign promise – school choice. Governor Shapiro betrayed the agreement reached in good faith today, leaving thousands of Pennsylvania children in failing schools.

It’s a shame that the governor doesn’t have enough respect or standing in his own party to keep his promise. It is important to have strong leadership that can bring people together. Governor Shapiro has failed to fulfill his promise to empower parents and provide children with educational opportunities.

We believe that every child deserves a quality education in Pennsylvania. That’s why we expanded our educational programs and funded at unprecedented levels the amount requested by the Governor for basic education. The General Appropriation Bill is not the last step in the process of budgeting, as Governor Shapiro’s legal counsel pointed out. Senate will wait for the House to take action on the remaining components of the budget to see what House Democrats with their slimmest majority can do.

It is a predictable outcome when you trust a Democrat. Shapiro’s willingness to kowtow and stab Republicans who had negotiated in good faith with him, in the back, was not surprising. The Democrat Party does not support school choice, so Shapiro’s campaign promises for 2022 were laughable.

The Republicans are now stuck. The budget was already approved in the Senate and they trusted Shapiro’s follow-through. The governor can ensure that Democrats receive all concessions negotiated and not have to fulfill their end of the bargain by using a line item veto. This is a lesson that Republicans should consider when they are considering bipartisanship in the absence of absolute guarantees.

But this didn’t happen by accident. Doug Mastriano was nominated by GOP voters to run against Shapiro in the last election. Mastriano is a controversial and unpopular figure within the state. In the end, Mastriano won in a landslide. Since then, Pennsylvania has shifted to the left. The primary elections are the beginning of the consequences that come with an election. It’s not always the best thing to do what makes a voter happy at that moment. It’s certainly not what leads to the needed policy victories. The Republicans should reflect on how we arrived at this point and learn from it.