After four special Texas legislative sessions that featured a bill to enable Texas children to have school choice that would empower them to meet their particular needs, the bill failed in the House. As you probably are aware, this proposal was Governor Greg Abbott’s highest legislative priority and, over the past 30 or so years I have worked on these issues, I have never seen a Texas Governor work as hard and expend as much political capital on this issue than Gov. Abbott did during these four sessions. And the shocking part of this story is that 21 Republican House members betrayed the Governor and voted no, in spite of the fact that polling showed that over 80% of the voters in their respective districts approved of giving this right to Texas children and their families. It’s very simple, as the wording in last year’s Republican primary resolution demonstrates: “Texas parents and guardians should have the right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.” This resolution passed with 88% of the vote!
So what’s the problem? First, no issue of which I am aware is surrounded by as much misinformation or subjected to as much demagoguery (see “vouchers” and related buzz words) as this one, and much of that is intentional. Second, most of the Republican no votes in the House were by rural members who have been convinced by the local teachers and administrators that the notion of choice and the competition it brings will be destructive to their communities. And given the fact that in most Texas counties the school district is the largest employer, and often despite its usefulness in enhanced performance, who wants more competition? In many cases, I’m waiting to see if local business leaders are paying attention to school performance accountability and that maybe they should stand up to the school board and administration and welcome some competition. In my experience, not likely.
The beat goes on, and Gov. Abbott is working hard to take out the Republican nos in the primary before the next round. Don’t bet against him, but he needs all the help he can get and Texas and its students need universal school choice.