by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Fueled largely by the failure to keep schools open during COVID, public satisfaction and trust in public K-12 education are near all-time lows. Parents are not happy with a system that funnels infinite resources to teachers unions with no accountability or good results. They overwhelmingly want school choice (65%-22% in [a] Morning Consult poll), and more Republican-controlled states are delivering.
This creates a problem for Democratic governors, all of whom are beholden to teachers unions. Just this month in Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, who ran for election promising to deliver school choice for all K-12 students, capitulated after intense pressure from teachers unions in the state. Voters will have an opportunity to hold Shapiro accountable in 2026.
Democratic governors in other states have been forced to get even more creative rather than simply flip-flopping like Shapiro.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers stretched his state’s line-item veto beyond credulity, changing a two-year $650 increase in per-pupil spending, into a 400-year $130,000 hike. Evers accomplished this by outlandish editing to change the end of the spending increase from “2025” to “2425,” manifestly abusing the spirit and intention of the law. He also used the same power to cancel the elimination of 188 diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucrats at the University of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Republicans promise to fight this chicanery in court, arguing that they outstrip the governor’s veto power. In previous years, they would have had a decent shot of winning. The state Supreme Court struck down three of Evers’s line-item vetoes from 2020. But since that time, control of the court has flipped to Democrats.
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper went so far as to declare a “state of emergency” to stop the Republican-controlled legislature from passing a Choose Your School, Choose Your Future Act, which would eliminate income eligibility limits from the state’s wildly successful and popular Opportunity Scholarship Program.