Sunday, December 17, 2023

PA: Dammit, Democrats

For a hot minute, it looked like Pennsylvania Democrats would stand up for public education. But no.

Josh Shapiro continues to support the notion of vouchers in Pennsylvania. And his fellow Democrats have once again indicated that they will gladly throw public education under the bus in order to try to win.

I should say that Shapiro supports more vouchers. We've had tax credit vouchers for years, from before when people understood what they were. And nobody has learned much about them because the law that created them expressly blocks any attempt to collect any data about who's using them

But Ed Voters PA studied the data on who was getting them, and that was more than enough to make clear that, as with most states, the vouchers are being used to create a taxpayer subsidy for discrimination. Mostly against disabilities and LGBTQ, but really, anything-- here's the policy from one voucher-accepting religious school:

We maintain the right to refuse admittance at our discretion and to suspend or expel any student who violates the standards set down and defined by the administration. The administration also reserves the right of not defining the criteria or reason when applications are not accepted.

So, of course, the legislature increased the funding for the voucher program by $150 million. And Shapiro continues to discuss vouchers as something he wants to get a deal done on, even after his earlier deal with the GOP fell apart..

The state democratic party was set to issue a rebuke of Shapiro's voucher love. First they were reportedly going to address him directly, then were softening to a more general and generic condemnation of vouchers. But what they actually did in the end was jack and squat. 

What happened? Chuck Pascal, a democratic lion for public education, was apparently ready to go. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

State Sen. Sharif Street (D., Philadelphia), who chairs the state party, said the rules committee tabled the anti-voucher resolution after the Democratic National Committee reached out to him with concerns that the party would appear divided going into the hotly contested 2024 election.

“Right now, what we need to be focused on is winning and beating the Republicans,” Street added.

So there it is. As far as the national party is concerned, public education support can be sacrificed easily in the name of party politics. Taxpayer subsidies for religious and discriminatory private schools? Not as big a deal as beating the GOP.

It's not a huge shock. Democrats have been failing public education for decades, to the point that I have doubts that most even know how to defend it at this point. But if the message in Pennsylvania is supposed to be "We need to unite behind the governor while he unites behind the GOP," I'm not sure who that is supposed to impress. As Pascal told the Inquirer:

“It’s still bad policy, and I don’t care who the governor is,” Pascal added. “We’re not here to have a slavish agreement with any elected official.”

Or as Joseph Klein on the dead bird app put it

What good is it to prioritize defeating the GOP is the Democrats' policies are the same?

Shame on the state party for folding, and double shame on the national party for asking them to. It is an endless source of frustration that public education remains a political orphan, especially since it's actually popular with the voters. Dammit, Democrats.

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