School Choice Is On The Texas GOP Primary Ballot

School choice has been on a roll in the states but hit a roadblock last year in Texas. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and allies are going all-in with an effort to defeat the GOP state legislators who favored the unions over parents and children last year.

The stakes are high for Texas and nationwide as Governor Abbott is taking on members of his party. He’s endorsed ten challengers to incumbents who defeated his plan for universal education savings accounts for the more than five million K-12 students in the Lone Star State.

Abbott tried to pass ESAs worth about $10,500 per student and called two special legislative sessions to do it. The ESAs would have been the first private school choice program in Texas, and a separate ESA plan passed the state Senate.

“Our schools are for education, not indoctrination. The solution to this problem is empowering parents to choose the right school for their child,” Abbott said at an event in the capital last spring.

The governor worked to court support by tying the passage of his voucher plan to a $7.6 billion funding boost for public schools that included teacher pay raises. Still, 21 House lawmakers, most of whom represent rural areas and fear the measure would pull resources away from their public schools, sided with state Democrats to torpedo the legislation.

Others insist the governor’s plan would have little impact on high-performing public schools, where parents are satisfied and unlikely to pull their students. For parents who aren’t, vouchers provide an alternative.

“We cannot ignore these cries from parents saying, Can we please acknowledge that some kids could be better served with a different option? That’s what empowering parents is all about. We trust individuals to make the best choices for their lives and their families,” said Mandy Drogin, who directs the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Next Generation Texas campaign.

Abbott is targeting the holdouts, many of whom he backed in past contests, as Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds did in Iowa in 2022 when she endorsed challengers during the primary, helping elect lawmakers to support her school choice bill.

Abbott has searched for challengers and used his war chest to help power pro-voucher candidates’ campaigns ahead of the March 5 primary.

In many of these districts, the primary election will decide the winner of the race, with Democrats or other challengers unlikely to prevail during the general election in deeply conservative regions.

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