Abbott Stumps for Pro-School Choice Candidate

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation offices in Austin. | Image by Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Temple to stump for a Texas House candidate on Friday, framing this Republican primary season around one of his top legislative priorities: school choice.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the likelihood of a school choice policy getting passed during the Texas Legislature’s fourth special legislative session dropped precipitously after a coalition of Democrat and Republican House members voted to remove education savings accounts from a spending bill.

Abbott subsequently endorsed the 58 House Republicans who voted against the move to drop education savings accounts from the proposed legislation.

“Proud to endorse 58 Texas House Republicans for re-election in 2024. I encourage Texans to join me in supporting these strong conservatives so we can deliver school choice for every family in Texas,” the governor posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Abbott seemingly took things a step further on Friday, campaigning in favor of Republican primary candidate Hillary Hickland, who is running for House District 55.

“The people of Temple, Texas and the people of House District 55 need a true conservative representative with a seat a the table in Austin, Texas. … They need Hillary Hickland to be their next state representative,” Abbott said at an event, according to KWTD 10.

Hickland is running against Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple), one of the 21 House Republicans who voted against removing education savings accounts from the spending bill.

“We … need to empower parents with their God-given right to make decisions about their children’s future,” said Hickland, per KWTD 10. “That is basic. No one knows better for their children than parents … I am very passionate about school choice and opening opportunities for kids.”

Polling suggests there is broad support for school choice across most demographics in the Lone Star State. Many public school systems across Texas have steadily been losing students to alternatives like private school and homeschooling, likely in part due to flagging student achievement outcomes.

Dallas ISD, for instance, underperformed in a number of metrics, according to the latest Texas Education Agency accountability report for the 2021-2022 school year. Only 41% of students scored at grade level on their STAAR exams, and almost 20% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 did not earn a diploma in four years, despite the hard work of the school system’s dedicated teachers.

“The trend nationwide is toward more school choice,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, speaking with The Dallas Morning News. “More states are expanding it, or at least moving in that direction. So, the national forces within the Republican Party are pushing. Abbott will continue to push. Patrick will continue to push from the Senate. And there are going to be fewer members closely tied to the anti-voucher position.”

The fourth special session is set to end on December 6. It is unclear whether Abbott will call a fifth special session.

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