Legislative staffers, lawmakers, and other alleged political insiders involved in school choice negotiations this year shed some light on why the Texas Legislature failed to advance one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top policy priorities.

Abbott traveled the state to promote education savings accounts with universal eligibility. He held “Parent Empowerment Nights” and met with legislators on both sides of the issue during the regular session. He even vetoed at least a dozen bills in an effort to convince lawmakers of his desire to see the policy passed.

Despite Abbott’s efforts, as reported by The Dallas Express, the Texas Legislature failed to pass school choice during the regular session and four subsequent special sessions due to an anti-school choice coalition of Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans in the lower chamber. The political fallout has already been considerable, with Abbott supporting the primary challengers of some 16 House Republicans who voted to kill school choice earlier in the latest special session.

Speaking to several alleged insiders, most of whom refused to go on record, The Texas Tribune purportedly found that many thought the governor was too optimistic about the support there actually was for school choice in the state legislature.

“A lot of House members — certainly rural Republican House members — would have suggested that he miscalculated,” claimed one House Republican who declined to have their name published.

Others allegedly suggested that Abbott’s insistence on universal eligibility for education savings accounts doomed it from the start, with one House Republican claiming, “It was just a bridge too far.” Had Abbott compromised by limiting them to disadvantaged students, such as those with disabilities or those attending F-rated campuses, some alleged he might have had more support.

Moreover, some anti-school choice Republican House members were simply not going to soften their resolve, having campaigned against the policy for years.

“This is an issue, for the people who voted against a voucher, they are going to be against a voucher no matter what you do to it,” explained Will Holleman, senior director of government relations at the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas.

A survey conducted by the University of Houston and Texas Southern University showed considerable support for school choice among Texans, with only 28% of respondents saying they opposed universal “tax-funded school vouchers that can be used to pay for their child to attend a private or religious school.”

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, polling has shown that the popularity of school choice initiatives cut across most demographics in the state. The academic underperformance of many public school systems in Texas has likely bolstered support for school choice legislation.

Dallas ISD, for example, the second-biggest district in the state, saw only 41% of its students score at grade level on their STAAR exams during the 2021-2022 school year, according to the latest Texas Education Agency accountability report. Meanwhile, almost 20% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 did not earn a diploma in four years.