Anti-School Choice TX Republicans Face Ad Blitz

school choice
Elementary school | Image by Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

The fight over school choice in Texas is drawing in some major campaign dollars this primary season, with the latest deployment of funds targeting eight of the 16 House Republicans running for re-election who voted to kill a school choice measure during the last of four special legislative sessions last year.

Roughly $1.2 million in spending on the part of the super PAC School Freedom Fund, an initiative by the right-leaning Club for Growth, is going toward media ad buys against Reps. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio), Ernest Bailes (R-Sphepherd), DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches), Glenn Rogers (R-Graford), Hugh Shine (R-Temple), Reggie Smith (R-Sherman), and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), per the Texas Scorecard.

As previously reportedDX is taking a deep dive into what has become one of the biggest policy debates in Texas as parents and other stakeholders voice concerns over the state of education today. With declining enrollment at traditional public schools buttressing polls that suggest wide support for some kind of school choice policy, pressure has been coming to bear on the anti-school choice Republicans in the lower chamber.

DX spoke with Club for Growth president David McIntosh about the ad buys and the high-stakes primary races coming up next month.

“We are sending the message with these ad buys that today, Republicans can’t be opposing school choice and take cash from radical education bureaucrats and teachers unions. The voters are going to hold them accountable on election day. That’s our whole purpose here,” he said.

McIntosh told DX he was surprised that a school choice bill didn’t come out of the Texas Legislature for the governor to sign last year. He said the Club for Growth was engaged during the policy battle, helping connect pro-school choice constituents with their representatives.

“At the time, we made it clear there’ll be political consequences for any of these so-called Republicans who turn their back on their constituents, turn their back on the governor and this critical issue for Republicans. We basically want to send a message to reset all of this across the country, to fix the public education problems in Texas and elsewhere. That’s why we have the School Freedom Fund,” McIntosh said.

House Republicans against school choice, who typically represent rural districts where school systems purportedly serve as a major center of employment and sense of community, have had a history of aligning with enough Democrats in the chamber to derail its advancement, arguing that the policy could prove damaging.

“This sense of community is what makes Texas great, and I would hate to see anything like a voucher program destroy this community spirit,” VanDeaver told The Texas Tribune in 2022. VanDeaver previously served as superintendent of New Boston ISD.

He defended his vote to kill school choice last year, claiming it was “just not good for our district,” even though the measure was attached to an education funding bill that would have bolstered state spending on public schools.

“This bill would have shifted billions of dollars to the urban and suburban schools. We don’t have options in our district for private school. So it was just bad for the district,” he said in an interview with a Nexstar affiliate. “Nothing personal, nothing really even political about it. It was strictly policy-driven.”

McIntosh disagreed with the notion, stressing that the education bill endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Senate would have increased the amount of taxpayer money public schools receive for each student in their charge.

“It just proves that that’s a red herring. That just isn’t true,” he told DX.

Like many of the other House Republicans who voted against school choice and opted to try to keep their seats, VanDeaver has a primary opponent endorsed by Abbott. As reported by DX, the governor has been hitting the campaign trail since the end of the last special session, throwing his weight behind candidates that support school choice.

“Chris Spencer is the conservative champion that Northeast Texas needs,” Abbott said of Spencer, a Cass County-based businessman. “He will come to Austin to ensure that every Texas parent has the right to choose the best education for their children, support the continued defense of our southern border, and fight for the conservative principles that have made Texas the land of freedom and opportunity that it is today.”

When asked about Abbott’s push to unseat House Republicans like himself, VanDeaver told Ryan Chandler with KXAN:

“I think it’s just unfortunate we’re in a position where we’re not allowed to vote our district. And to be honest with you, when I can no longer vote my district, I really don’t have a lot of interest in continuing to serve. … I’m not going to continue to go to Austin and allow someone else, an outside interest, to influence my vote in a way that would be detrimental to my district.”

The Texas Republican primary is scheduled for March 5, with early voting starting on February 20.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article