Texas Governor Greg Abbott (File)

They Tanked His School Choice Agenda. Now Texas Gov. Abbott Is Coming After Them

Texas Governor Greg Abbott endorsed Donald Trump for President on Sunday during a rally in Edinburg, Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. By Brandon Poulter

More than 20 Republicans in the Texas House voted against school choice in November, and now Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is endorsing primary challengers for their seats, according to multiple reports reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Texas Legislature held a fourth special legislative session to address school choice on Dec. 5, which failed to establish school vouchers one day after a failed third session on Nov. 5 for the same reason.

Over 20 Texas House Republicans voted against Abbott’s school vouchers program in the fourth legislative session, and now Abbott is endorsing a primary challenger against every single one of them who is running for reelection, according to Texas Score Card.

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“School choice enjoys broad support in Texas and has picked up considerable momentum. Governor Abbott has been one of the country’s most vocal champions of school choice, and the Texas Senate passed school choice four times this year. The Texas House remains entrenched with teachers’ unions and special interests. The teachers’ unions endorsed 18 of the 21 Republicans who voted to strip ESAs during their last election,” Nathan Cunneen, a spokesperson for the American Federation for Children, an organization that advocates for school choice in the U.S., told the DCNF.

An October survey found that 49% of Texans support using taxpayer money for school vouchers to help low-income parents and 27% oppose vouchers, according to the University of Houston. One poll in October revealed that 51% of Texans support “establishing a voucher, educational savings account, or other ‘school choice’ program in Texas,” and 30% of Texans opposed, according to the Texas Politics Project.

Republican Texas state Rep. Glenn Rogers is an opponent of Abbott’s school choice plans, as is Republican Texas state Rep. Steve Allison, according to Texas Score Card. Abbott endorsed Mike Olcott, a primary challenger to Rogers, and Marc Lahood, a primary challenger to Allison. Both Olcott and Lahood are pro-school choice, according to Texas Score Card.

Republican Texas state Rep. Hugh Shine also voted against school choice, and Abbott endorsed Hillary Hickland, an activist mother, for his seat, according to The Texas Tribune.

“Your current state representative went not only against those 89% of the Republicans that wanted school choice, but he did so by joining with all of the Democrats, voting against a Republican priority,” Abbott said at an event for Hickland, according to The Texas Tribune.

Abbott “will continue to work with Texas legislators and at the ballot box to get school choice for all Texas families,” a spokesperson for the Texas governor said on Dec. 5, according to The Texas Tribune.

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“Every family deserves to choose where and how their child will learn. Teacher unions know they cannot defend the outcomes of failing public schools, so they spend big to make sure families remain trapped in schools assigned by the government. Evidence suggests that when school choice is available, public schools actually improve because they must compete with other options,” Angela Morabito, Defense for Freedom Institute spokesperson, told the DCNF.

Abbott is a longtime supporter of school choice and has encouraged voters to contact their legislators about school voucher programs, according to a September press release. Abbott called for immediate legislative action on school choice in February’s State of the State address and called school choice programs an “emergency item.” “This issue is so vital to the future of our state I am making education freedom an emergency item this session,” Abbott said in February.

Abbott is also a proponent of parental rights and has signed several bills aimed at extending them, including legislation that would allow parents to view classroom materials, remove books that are inappropriate from school libraries, provide support to special needs students and allow parents to choose if their child should repeat a grade.

Other GOP governors, including Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, signed a similar bill in May creating a universal school choice program which allows every Florida family to be eligible for up to $8,000 to cover education expenses. Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law in May establishing a tax credit of between $5000-$7500 per family.

“I believe that every parent can do a better job of raising their children if they are given the power to choose the school that is best for their child. If they are given that power, that child will go down a pathway to better educational success, personal success, and relationship success,” Abbott said in the press release.

Abbott did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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