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Rural Texas Communities Targeted by Rich, Out-of-State Urbanites

Small rural communities in Texas are under attack from wealthy urbanites who want to destroy their culture. Contrary to popular belief, the attackers are Republicans.

The Texas fight over school vouchers ultimately comes down to the way of life in rural Texas districts. Though these districts are almost always Republican strongholds, they are also communities that revolve around the local school system. The schools provide steady jobs while also offering a host of community events and engagements. There is a reason Friday Night Lights is so ubiquitous in small town Texas lore.

Texas House Republicans recognize that Governor Greg Abbott’s voucher program (often misnamed as an “education savings account”) would eventually harm local public school funding. The staggering $2 billion a year price tag represents a concerted effort to funnel money from public education to wealthy Christian schools in urban and suburban areas. Less than 10 percent of the private institutions that the vouchers would help pay for are located in rural districts.

The inescapable fact that the voucher push is to benefit wealthy urbanites is reflected in two figures pouring enormous money and other resources into the 2024 Texas Republican Primary. The first is Jeff Yass, a trading mogul and the richest man in Pennsylvania. Yass hails from Queens, New York and now lives in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, one of the wealthiest suburbs of Philadelphia.

Yass is also America’s chief cheerleader for vouchers, and he has his eyes on Texas at the moment. Following the defeat of vouchers in the Texas House after rural Republicans sided with Democrats, Yass gave Abbott $6 million, the largest out of state single contribution in Texas history. It adds to a massive war chest that Abbott has been using to systematically attack rural Republicans who thwarted his agenda.

The second is Betsy DeVos, former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Amway billionaire, and founder of the American Federation for Children. The AFC lobbies heavily on behalf of using public money for private schools, and it is based in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

At least three rural Texas Republicans have been targeted by mailing campaigns from the AFC. Constituents of Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene), and Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) received mailers calling their representatives “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only) and accusing them of being insufficiently conservative.

The mailers originally showed a return address of Alexandria, but now show a Dallas address to hide the fact that they are coming from an organization founded by an East Coast billionaire.

Darby addressed the campaign at a recent event.

“When you see that stuff in the mail, accusing me of being a RINO…it’s coming to you from folks who live, not in this state, not in this district, but in Alexandria Virginia or Chicago,” Darby said. “They make money as grifters trying to convince you that I’m not a Republican.”

It’s unclear whether all the out of state money and pressure will actually do any good. All rural Texas Republicans seem to have their constituents’ support for protecting their schools, even as the out-of-state money uses cultural boogeypersons like “critical race theory ” to push the envelope. Regardless, it’s clear that the big money voucher proponents are trying to rewrite the rural Texas way of life.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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