During his campaign, Governor Josh Shapiro (D-PA), who won his election in 2022, promised to prioritize school choice for thousands of children, particularly minority students, who are currently stuck in underperforming public schools, especially in urban centers like Philadelphia.
Shapiro, who served as the state attorney general before running for governor, consistently reassured voters of his belief in this cause. A month ago, during a national broadcast on Fox News, he affirmed his stance on school choice by saying that “every child of God deserves a quality education.”
However, in politics, certain entities wield more significant influence than the personal beliefs of individuals, no matter how sincerely held. One such entity is the teacher’s unions.
These unions vehemently opposed approximately 10,000 vouchers targeted at the most disadvantaged students in Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts, even as the state budget bill proposed significant additional funding for public schools.
The fact that the voucher program represented less than 0.5 percent of state spending didn’t deter the union leadership from demanding that Democrats reject any funding directed towards successful schools.
Regrettably, Governor Shapiro eventually capitulated to the pressure. He rescinded the promise he had made, essentially undermining his previously strong advocacy for the importance of equal educational opportunities.
Governor Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) advocates for withdrawing funding from a school choice program in Arizona. This initiative has been effective, serving thousands of students, primarily of Hispanic heritage, and resulting in enhanced academic performance and higher test scores.
Why she would aim to dismantle such a successful program is puzzling. The plausible reason could be the influence of teacher’s unions who desire control over the funds and the students.
Meanwhile, in the Harlem neighborhoods of New York City, charter schools are thriving. These schools provide an alternative to public education while remaining subject to state regulations. Due to their success, they have an excess of applicants, indicating parents’ preference for them over local public schools.
However, there are plans among Democrats to limit the number of these charter schools, seemingly a strategy to retain students within public schools, a move preferred by teacher’s unions. Even though many of these public schools struggle with academic proficiency, many students aren’t achieving grade-level reading or math skills.
The issue isn’t due to lack of funding—New York allocates over $20,000 per student in public schools—instead, it seems the system is less than adequate.