Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s School Choice Battle Isn’t Over Yet

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 03, 2024

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s desire to pass his “school choice” voucher program may seem to be a sure thing, now that many of the House Republicans he backed have won their elections.

However, analysts and critics of this program have claimed that this battle isn’t over yet, especially as a narrow margin will likely remain in a vote trying to pass this school choice idea.

Unseating Rival Incumbents

During this past election season, Abbott worked to unseat eight incumbents who were responsible for blocking his school choice plan last year.

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A close-up of the Texas State Capitol building seen in the daytime.

Source: Clark Van Der Beken/Unsplash

These eight policymakers were successfully ousted in Texas’ most recent elections. As a result, lawmakers that Abbott had publicly backed — and who will vote in favor of the governor’s school choice program — have won and taken over these seats.

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Abbott Now Has Enough Votes

Thanks to his supporters’ victories in the elections, Abbott now has enough votes to successfully pass his desired school choice plan.

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Greg Abbott in a suit talking.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Already, there are signs from Abbott’s loyal base that the governor will work to push this plan through, especially as he’s put a lot of time and effort into unseating those eight incumbents who went against him.

What Is Abbott’s School Choice Program?

Abbott’s controversial school voucher program would allow students to use public money in order to go to a private or religious school, rather than a public school.

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A close-up of the back of a yellow school bus seen underneath a blue sky.

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This program has been heavily criticized by Texas Democrats, as they don’t want public money to be taken from Texas public schools. Many detractors have worried that public schools will see less public money every year, thanks to this plan.

Conservatives Also Fought Abbott’s School Voucher Idea

However, Democrats weren’t alone in fighting this program in 2023. Many House Republicans refused to vote for this plan, which resulted in the program failing in a House vote last year — and subsequently led Abbott to work to unseat his eight rivals.

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Many red school lockers seen against a brown wall.

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Some rural conservatives voted against this plan, as they claimed that this voucher program wouldn’t help rural students in any way. Instead, they want to keep public money set aside for public schools — not private ones.

Abbott Still Faces Roadblocks

Even though Abbott’s election wins seem to point to the idea that he’ll finally get his school voucher program passed, analysts have stated that the governor still has quite a few roadblocks in the near future.

Greg Abbott seen talking into a microphone in front of a podium.

Source: World Travel & Tourism Council/Wikimedia Commons

Most importantly, Abbott only has a narrow margin in the House when it comes to this vote. When looking at last year’s vote, Abbott will need at least 76 House Republicans to vote in favor of his plan. Right now, he has only 77.

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A Narrow Margin

With only two more votes in his favor, Abbott’s plan could still face quite a lot of opposition if the House brings the plan to a vote in the near future.

Greg Abbott talking with people standing behind him.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

For example, if only two Republicans decide to reject Abbott’s bill, then the program wouldn’t pass in the House.

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Fighting for Equality

Those who are against this school voucher program have explained that they are fighting to ensure all students have equality while in school.

Many school buses seen parked in a lot outside.

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“The fight is certainly not over for those of us who are opposed to public funds subsidizing private education,” Scott Midler, the co-founder of Friends of Texas Public Schools, said. “We pay school taxes so every kid in our communities has equal opportunities.”

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Upcoming Elections

Another factor that could hamper Abbott’s desire to pass this school voucher program will occur this November during the general election. Some Republican lawmakers are running against Democrats who could potentially unseat them.

A silhouette of a person putting a ballot into a box.

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Democrats have put a lot of time and energy into trying to flip two House seats in Dallas County. If they are successful, then Abbott may not have the votes to pass his plan. However, so far both GOP representatives are still being forecasted to win, according to polls.

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Republicans Aren’t Seeing Eye To Eye

Even more hindering to Abbott’s ultimate goal is the fact that Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan may not push for a school choice plan to pass in the House if he wins reelection.

An up-close look at a Texas flag on a pole underneath a clear blue sky.

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While Abbott endorsed Phelan in 2022, he hasn’t done so this year. Many other Republicans who are against the program are still in the House and likely won’t change their minds any time soon, further creating a gulf between conservatives in Texas.

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Some Conservatives Are Worried

However, Abbott successfully unseating eight incumbents this last election cycle — all because of their rejection of his school voucher program — has worried many conservative leaders. They do not want him to go against them in their upcoming elections in the next few years.

Greg Abbott smiling while outside among other people.

Source: J Dimas/Wikimedia Commons

As a result, some analysts are worried that Republicans in the House will simply vote as Abbott wants them to, simply to keep him off their backs. “[Abbott] has a lot of people who support him doing this who are ideologically aligned, and then he has a bunch of people kind of on the fence who are just going to go wherever they feel like power and influence are,” Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas political consultant, explained.

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Supporters Rally Around Push for School Choice

Supporters of school choice and Abbott’s plan are rallying around these election wins. Genevieve Collins, the Texas director for Americans for Prosperity, stated that educating the public about this program is their next step.

An American flag on a pole next to a Texas flag.

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“This isn’t just about the elected official, even though they’re taking the vote,” she said. “We’re going to ensure that Texans are informed about the issue, so when their representatives vote for it, they are backed up by their constituents.”

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