By Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36)
While Gov. Shapiro works to frame the failure of the student scholarship legislation as an argument over the budget negotiating process, it is important to note a failure he cannot credibly pass off on someone else.
As a candidate, Josh Shapiro openly and unambiguously proclaimed his support for school choice and made this promise to the thousands of families of children trapped in failing schools. He positioned himself as someone willing to break with the leftward trend and stand up to special interests who are so deeply invested in the current system which abandons the most vulnerable among our students and families.
One week before he broke this promise, the governor appeared on Fox News and said the following when asked about the school choice legislation:
“Let me just say, in general, I believe every child of God deserves a shot here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and one of the best ways we can guarantee their success is making sure every child has a quality education. I’ve been very clear that I’m open to that concept that you described a moment ago, but I’ve also made crystal clear that I won’t take a dollar out of our public schools in order to achieve that.”
Gov. Shapiro made a deal with the Senate. That’s politics. But the deal that matters most was the promise to families in desperate search of a school that will allow their children to learn and grow. Real people, such as the families I represent in Columbia Borough, and families like them across the commonwealth, continue to suffer.
Gov. Shapiro has described himself as “competitive as hell.” We can only wish that energy for competition had been put to use for the citizens, not solely for his political ambitions.
While our chamber was successful in holding the line on many of Gov. Shapiro’s proposals for big spending, we consented to parts of his agenda with the clear understanding that he would honor his promises to the people of Pennsylvania. He did not. As a result, Josh Shapiro delivered only two things: broken promises and real harm to the families who counted on him to keep his word.
Moving forward – this time without illusions about the current governor – we need to recommit ourselves to legislation and programs for vulnerable students. We need to focus on early literacy programs, support for a teacher-to-classroom pipeline to ensure the best teachers for whatever classrooms we fund. We must modernize our outdated education system through the work of the Commission on Education and Economic Competitiveness. The commission stands ready to work with families to repair the many things that are broken in public education.
And, yes, we need to continue to push for the kind of lifeline legislation the governor blithely cast aside to satisfy the leftish progressive wing of his party.
Abandoned students are counting on us. This time, we need to be the ones holding onto the other end of the lifeline. Unlike the governor, we won’t let go.