Gov. Abbott, Others, Push for School Choice

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott | Image by Office of the Governor Greg Abbott/Facebook

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas leaders are continuing to vocally advocate for school choice as the legislature stalls on the issue.

Several weeks into the third special session, the school choice package has ground to a halt in the Texas House under the leadership of Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) despite popular support among Texans.

“It’s time for Texas to join the majority of states that have school choice programs,” Gov. Abbott recently said. “We have an obligation to deliver the best education for our students.”

“Giving parents the freedom to choose the best school for their child will make that happen,” he promised.

In an attached infographic, Texas was one of a minority of states, including New York and California, that does not offer an educational savings account or voucher program for students to attend non-government-run schools.

Similarly, Don Huffines, who challenged Abbott in the GOP primary, agreed with his former opponent, noting, “Competition always lowers the price and increases the quality.”

“Monopolies are bad, but government monopolies are even worse,” he explained. “Texas needs UNIVERSAL school choice.”

However, some Republicans, though seemingly not against the concept itself, are bucking against the desires of their constituents, promising to vote against school choice unless more taxpayer dollars are given to public schools.

Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) said, “I’m not even going to consider it until we properly fund the education,” per KXAN.

“And then even if we do fund education, and we fund the subgroups, special needs kids, that sort of thing, then I’m just not going to turn the money loose,” he promised. “I’m gonna want accountability.”

Still, Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) urged, “Over 30 other states have already empowered their parents with some form of [school choice]. Texas must finally join them.”

“The next generation depends on it!”

On the other hand, proposed school choice initiatives have been voraciously condemned by public school employees and teacher unions, who claim it will undermine the Texas education system.

Jay McWilliams, the superintendent of Big Spring ISD, responded to Rep. Harrison, claiming, “Not going to happen in Texas! Our folks know better, and they do NOT want vouchers!”

“You don’t have the votes, and will never have the votes in the House!” he continued.

Though McWilliams pointed to “Our folks” opposing school choice, the majority of Texans have indicated that they support it, as reported by The Dallas Express. According to a recent survey, 51% of the state across party lines back ESAs or vouchers, while only 30% disagreed.

Additionally, 57% of urban voters, 62% of young voters, and 54% of black voters all wanted school choice legislation.

According to the Texas Education Agency, McWilliams makes $190,000 annually as superintendent. Nevertheless, less than 40% of his students meet grade-level standards across all subjects.

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