Last October, I asked a rhetorical question about who Josh Shapiro was fighting for. In the election cycle immediately preceding the November 2022 election, he accepted over $500,000 from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and an additional $250,000 from the National Education Association. These were some of his largest contributions.

I questioned whether a candidate funded by the state and national teachers’ unions would actually support a school choice program. “Can we trust Shapiro to live up to his newly articulated campaign promises, or will he be responsible for ensuring that Pennsylvanians are screwed over for another four years?”

Much to my surprise and delight, it appears that Shapiro intends to stand by his campaign promise and support the proposed Lifeline Scholarship Program. This is even more astonishing based on the reaction of the PSEA and other unions across the state.

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In a joint letter issued on June 22, 2023, eight unions rallied together to denounce the scholarship program. Signers included the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13; the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA); the Service Employees International Union State Council (SEIU); the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), Local 1776; and the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council.

The letter from some of the most powerful and well-funded unions in the state expressed “our deep concern and complete opposition to the idea of implementing any school voucher program in Pennsylvania, whether it is called ‘Lifeline Scholarships’ or anything else.”

The letter further elaborates on the unions’ concerns. “This tuition voucher exercise, timed conveniently in the final days of FY 2023–24 budget deliberations, is keeping policymakers from addressing actual problems like our unconstitutional public school funding system and the school staff shortage crisis. It would be a shame if the months of work on bipartisan initiatives to address real problems in public schools were lost because of ideological efforts to advance the privatization of our education system.”

Yet despite this attack from groups that financially supported Shapiro, he is publicly endorsing the Lifeline Scholarship Program. The governor appeared on Fox News last week. “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,” he said. “I’ve been very clear that I’m open to that concept that you described a moment ago, but I’ve also made it crystal clear that I won’t take a dollar out of our public schools in order to achieve that.”

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is currently holding up the passage of the budget that includes the Lifeline Scholarship Program. The Senate passed the budget yesterday, and now it is up to the House to decide its fate.

Doing the right thing is not often popular or easy, but it is still the right thing to do. Our children deserve better.

While most Democrats generally oppose school choice measures, Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) has been vocal in his support of the Lifeline Scholarship Program. “My hope is that this new energy around the possibility of a scholarship is viewed as simply what it is — and that’s support for a population of people who don’t have the financial means to move their children to where others would move their children to a school that works and educates and is safe. And that’s all we’re trying to do.”

While Shapiro and Williams are aligned on this issue, it remains to be seen whether any Democrats in the House will break party lines and support the governor’s position. Does Shapiro have enough support in the House to push the budget over the finish line?

Regardless of the outcome, Shapiro has already shown himself to be a better politician than most. In October, I highly doubted he would hold true to his campaign promises and support the Lifeline Scholarship Program. Yet, eight months later, he is standing firm with unwavering support for the program, despite opposition from his own party and financial backers.

Shapiro appears committed to do what is right for our children, regardless of the political consequences. In the Fox interview, he stated that the best way to ensure every child of God has a fair chance in his state is to ensure they have a proper education.

Every elected official regardless of political party should be able to agree on that declaration. Our children have suffered exponentially over the past three years, and it is time for everyone to come together and do what is right for our students and their education. The Lifeline Scholarship program is one small step towards righting the trajectory of our education system.

If the Lifeline Scholarship Program is passed with the budget, I will be the first to congratulate Gov. Shapiro for keeping his campaign promise despite the backlash from his own party and funders. Doing the right thing is not often popular or easy, but it is still the right thing to do. Our children deserve better.

Beth Ann Rosica resides in West Chester, has a Ph.D. in Education, and has dedicated her career to advocating on behalf of at-risk children and families. She covers education issues for Broad + Liberty. Contact her at

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