It’s surprising where support for the school voucher program in PA has been coming from

June 14 – One sticking point to the Pennsylvania budget has been a potential school voucher program that would help students in the lowest achieving 15% of schools in PA. 

The program would provide money for students in those schools to attend a school of their choice. 

Last year Governor Josh Shapiro said he would support the voucher program, but after the PA Senate passed the proposed budget – with the voucher program in it – Shapiro reversed his decision and instead line-item vetoed it when the budget hit his desk. 

That’s still a sore spot for a lot of people in the commonwealth and with the current budget due by June 30, the voucher program is still a talking point. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll noted, “Over 50 black pastors sent this letter to Governor Shapiro yesterday. They are lobbying him to support school vouchers in Pennsylvania. They are pointing out that a lot of families in their church communities, and a lot of these are inner city families, inner city churches, poor families, they would benefit incredibly from a school voucher program. Everyone has the right to lobby, but when he’s got more than 50 black pastors from big minority black churches and cities in Pennsylvania, I would think this is the sort of thing that starts to get his attention. We know this is very much part of the ongoing budget negotiations right now, too, between the House and the Senate.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “That’s great news. The money should follow the child and if you can’t handle it in whatever borough you’re in, and they can do it for five grand over at Cumberland Valley Christian school, the money should follow the child. Stop bowing at these unions and these admins and start worrying about your kid, because we’re lowering the standards. The teachers are overwhelmed. It’s your money.” 

Barkdoll agreed, “When you see a group like this, these are influential people, and I would think these are heavily Democratic people, and certainly they’re in Democrat areas. These are the kind of groups that would start to get the attention of the General Assembly and the governor. We know that the House just passed that huge spending package for public schools. We know last year that vouchers were in the package, and at the last minute, Shapiro took it out. But I just wonder, could this become one of the negotiating points this year? We’ll see over the next few weeks, I think there’s a decent chance that it’s going to happen.”

State Senator Doug Mastriano said, “In the deepest, bluest areas of Philadelphia, and I held a rally or two there in 2022, it was very popular, this idea of school choice. Now, granted, this is not a full school choice. It’s a way to get their kids more school opportunities for those struggling the most. But most of the Senators on the Democrat side are still beholden to the school unions, but we have at least one Democrat in Philadelphia that’s voting with us on the vouchers, on anything school choice. He’s listening to his parents. The last education meeting we had a couple weeks ago, he broke out in a long soliloquy after one of his Democrat colleagues listed off all these unions that did not want to have any school choice, didn’t want vouchers. He said I don’t care if you list off 100 of those, I’m going to speak to the parents, and they want school choice. So that this is one issue that we can do the right thing for the people of Pennsylvania, but it’s also issued a wedge within the Democrat party, and I think that wedge is going to grow and because of their insistence of being bought off by this massive school union here, they’re going to lose more and more members of their voting block, which would explain why the last quarter of voter registration was the first time in Pennsylvania history that every county, including Philadelphia County, had a net gain of registered Republicans over Democrats.”