It was back in early August when Governor Josh Shapiro held a press conference in Penn Hills, shortly after he signed the budget that did not include $100 million for more school vouchers in PA. As reported by the Pennsylvania Legislative Services (behind walls, so I can't link), this exchange occurred:
You recently vetoed the school voucher program, leaving $100 mill on the table. Do you have plans for that money?
Gov. Shapiro said he considers that topic to be unfinished and the chambers need to work on the topic, much like they need to work on the minimum wage, the Fairness Act to protect LGBT, and ensuring that those who are victims of abuse are able to face their abusers in court. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in the House and Senate, I’m hopeful that they will come back to session in the fall prepared to work together,” he said.
So you don’t have plans for the $100 million?
Gov. Shapiro explained that money is no longer part of the budget. “It’s now subject to further communication between the House and Senate. It’s certainly a concept I support. I think it’s important to fully fund schools and we give children who are struggling in difficult situations aa fair opportunity to learn,” he said. Gov. Shapiro said he has only been governor for 6 months, and there is still much work to do.
The $100 million you say you support, is that for the Level Up funding or the charter school voucher program?
Gov. Shapiro said, “Both.”
Shapiro's support for vouchers was noted all the way back during his candidacy, and choicers have pushed hard to get him to back a stripped-down-just-for-him version of a voucher bill that has been kicking around Harrisburg for year. The dark money group Commonwealth Action has been formed just to put pressure on Shapiro to get those vouchers passed. And Shapiro himself has said he continues to support the basic idea, criticizing the GOP not for the quality of their voucher proposal, but for their inability to muster enough votes to clear the Dem-controlled House.
When Shapiro took vouchers off the table, he made the GOP sad, but work started pretty quickly to "repair" that relationship, and it looks like the bone that Shapiro threw them was a chance to "improve" the state Charter Appeals Board. President Pro Tem of the PA Senate told the Philadelphia Inquirerthat Shapiro promised to improve the efficiency of the state’s Charter Appeals Board, which can overrule school boards’ decisions about opening new charter schools or closing existing ones. GOP leaders said they want that board, chaired by Shapiro’s secretary of education, to do more to help students attend charter schools in Philadelphia.