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Is Abbott Wrong About Vouchers Again?

With all of the posturing by Gov. Abbott in the wake of the Republican primary and runoff elections, it may appear that the passage of vouchers that would allow taxpayer funds to be handed out to parents for private and religious education is a foregone conclusion for the 89th Texas Legislature when they convene in January of next year. But some say the Governor may be counting his chickens before they hatch. There are those who believe Abbott has been so focused on warring against his own party members that he isn’t focusing on the Democratic opponents in the general election in November. 

Michelle Davis, of Lonestar Left, believes the Democrats could realistically pick up a significant number of seats this November, while Texas State Representative Gina Hinojosa says they only need to pick up three to maintain an anti-voucher majority in the Texas House.

While the fight over vouchers in the Texas Legislature began back in the 90s, the issue received new vigor when Abbott decided to promote vouchers as his priority issue during the 88th legislative session.

When a school funding bill with a voucher in it died in the Texas House, Abbott declared that he would veto any future funding bill unless it included a universal voucher. Then, when 24 of his own party’s representatives came out against vouchers, Abbott promised to support their opponents in the upcoming primary elections. He began showing up on the floor of the House where he actively tried to persuade members to support vouchers while they were trying to conduct other state business. When vouchers ultimately failed in the regular session, Abbott called a special session of the legislature, and vowed to keep doing so until the issue passed.

After four special sessions in 2023 Abbott made good on his promise to back the primary opponents of anti-voucher Republicans, leading to a number of incumbent losses and causing the Governor to declare that he now has enough votes to pass vouchers in the 89th legislative session. 

But why is this important to Abbott now when vouchers never seemed to show up on his radar before? Some think it is due to national aspirations. “Abbott clearly wants a position somewhere in a future national Republican administration,” said one anonymous Austin insider, “and he is trying to build his ‘conservative’ bonafides. The fact that he is willing to do damage to 5.4 million Texas school children by denying them funding is reprehensible.” 

Another theory is that vouchers were never the end game but that Abbott’s “line in the sand” on the issue was a way to create a wedge in his own party to enable him to openly oppose anti- voucher Republicans in the primary and to allow his campaign consultant, Dave Carney, to build a cadre of support for the Governor while drawing millions of dollars from out of state Republican mega donors. 

Either way, Abbott’s voucher plans may still be thwarted if the Democrats are successful in flipping several Texas House seats. Still, other factors may damage Abbott’s chances of passing a voucher.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, one of Abbott’s primary targets, managed to eke out a win in his recent runoff election. If Phelan returns as Speaker he will control committee appointments and which legislation is allowed before those committees, including whether or not to allow vouchers to advance to a vote.

Even if the Governor has enough votes for a voucher bill to pass, it will not matter if the bill never sees a vote. Next, Abbott’s efforts to starve Texas school districts until they accept a voucher may backfire. Several school districts are considering school closures, which are highly unpopular with voters. If those voters connect the closures to Abbott, it may prove damaging to his voucher schemes as well as his political future. More and more, Abbott appears to be hanging his hopes on the voucher issue, at times appearing desperate to succeed. He has declared victory prematurely in the past. Only time will tell if he is doing that again. “I don’t think he has the votes”, one returning house member told us, “I think he is wrong about that again.”Is Abbott Wrong About Vouchers Again?

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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