Some Republicans in the Texas House are facing backlash after voting on Friday with Democrats to kill the school choice component in a proposed education spending bill.
A total of 21 House Republicans acted alongside their Democratic colleagues in an 86-43 vote to remove language from the bill that would have established education savings accounts, which families could have used to help pay for private school or homeschooling.
Rep. John Raney (R-Bryan) put forth the anti-school choice amendment, calling school choice legislation “not conservative” and “bad public policy,” according to the Houston Chronicle. He acknowledged that the removal of the school choice component would likely doom the education funding bill, which, if enacted, would provide Texas public schools with more funding.
“I hope and pray that the governor calls us back and separates these issues, so we can make sure we give the teachers the pay raises they need,” Raney said.
Gov. Greg Abbott has called three special sessions so far and has suggested he would keep lawmakers in Austin until some kind of school choice legislation ends up on his desk to sign.
School choice advocate Corey DeAngelis slammed Raney in a social media post, accusing him of “[regurgitating] teachers union talking points” during Friday’s floor debate.
“[Rep.] Jared Patterson [R-Frisco] asks John Raney if students should get school choice if they are sexually abused at their public school. Nope. John Raney still won’t support school choice. The families should just go complain to the school board. Disgusting,” DeAngelis wrote, posting a video of the exchange.
Abbott lamented the vote by anti-school choice lawmakers in the House, however, he did not explicitly indicate whether he would call another special session if the lower chamber fails to pass school choice legislation this go around.
“I will continue advancing school choice in the Texas Legislature and at the ballot box, and will maintain the fight for parent empowerment until all parents can choose the best education path for their child,” Abbott said in a statement to the Austin American-Statesman. “I am in it to win it.”
“The small minority of pro-union Republicans in the Texas House who voted with the Democrats will not derail the outcome that their voters demand,” he added.
For his part, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lambasted the Republicans who voted against the measure, accusing them of thwarting the will of their constituents.
“I’m stunned that 21 House Republicans would continue to fight against parents and deny them the right to choose a school they think is best for their child,” posted Patrick on social media. “These members apparently think their own view is more important than the views of their voters, of which over 80% of Republicans support school choice, along with the majority of Independents, and many Democrats.”
He noted that the Senate has successfully passed school choice legislation.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, recent polling suggests that school choice legislation is popular across most demographics in Texas.
“Every parent deserves choices about where they will send their child to school. All these parents know this isn’t a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue. This is a civil rights issue,” Abbott previously said, per the Texas Observer.