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Battle For Public Schools: Lujan Faces Tough Challenge From Carranza

While Governor Greg Abbott has declared victory in his voucher fight, Texas Democrats are gearing up to challenge his endorsed candidates, honing in on education issues to flip several state House districts this fall.

After the primary elections, Abbott was successful in ousting eight Republican incumbents who voted against his voucher bill in the 88th Legislative session, the Governor then declared that they had enough votes in the House to pass this policy.

However, Democrats plan to use his school voucher policy to flip those seats in the House, criticizing Abbott’s push to use taxpayer funds for private school tuition, when public schools are already dealing with teacher shortages and budget deficits. A situation worsened by lawmakers’ failure to use the state’s historic $33 billion budget surplus to boost school funding, due to the voucher debate.

During the Texas Democratic Convention in El Paso, State Representative Gina Hinojosa told convention delegates that Abbott’s efforts against voucher opponents in the primaries have tipped the House narrowly towards passing vouchers next year.

“We need to elect about three more Democrats to the Texas House to defeat vouchers and defend our neighborhood public schools,” she said.

Despite only needing three seats to oppose vouchers, Scott Braddock, journalist and political analyst has predicted that Democrats will flip as many as “nine or so seats” this fall.

“I’m looking at the map now, across the state, and looking at where Democrats might win seats this fall. We’ve talked about this in the context of school voucher discussions and debates. I think that there are as many as… I’m not predicting this… There are as many as nine or so seats that Democrats could flip in the Texas House this fall,” Braddock said in an episode of Texas Take with Jeremy Wallace.

The main battleground for this election cycle includes the suburbs of Dallas, San Antonio, and South Texas, with several districts facing struggling schools – Democrats hope that public education issues will resonate with voters.

One key target is GOP state Rep. John Lujan, who narrowly won his Bexar County district in 2022 despite Democrat Beto O’Rourke carrying the district over Abbott.

Kristian Carranza, a progressive organizer, and Lujan’s Democratic opponent, says public education and the voucher fight are the top issues for voters, as first reported by The Texas Tribune. She also noted that districts like Harlandale ISD in her area have closed schools due to funding deficits.

Harlandale ISD school officials nixed the 4-day school week and reported that closing four elementary schools – Columbia Heights, Morrill, Vestal, and Rayburn – will help deal with their $12 million dollar budget shortfall.

“We want to keep that Harlandale legacy. We don’t want a few years from now that Harlandale is over and doesn’t exist because we know that could happen,” said Mariana Vierya, Harlandale ISD School district spokesperson.

Carranza argues that the financial crises facing schools result from budget deficits caused by officials like Lujan prioritizing party loyalty over community needs.

“For people, this is a lived reality when we talk about private school vouchers,” Carranza, who opposes the measure, told The Texas Tribune. “The way I talk about this is, the financial crisis schools are facing is due to massive budget deficits, and that’s the inevitable result of elected officials like John Lujan who have been choosing to toe the line with their party rather than stand up for their community.” 

Abbott and his pro-voucher supporters argue that parents should have the option to remove their children from the public education system, criticizing its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the teaching of race, history, and sex in classrooms.

Meanwhile, Harlandale ISD isn’t the only school district affected by Abbott’s priorities. In the past months, over a dozen ISD’s have recorded budget deficits of as high as $84 million.

Democrats, led by state Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Cypress), sent a letter to Abbott urging him to call a special session as more school districts face budget problems and massive layoffs.

“Our public schools are the bedrock of our communities, and it’s imperative we provide them with the resources they need to thrive,” wrote Rosenthal. “By calling for a special session, Governor Abbott has the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to fulfilling our constitutional duty to adequately fund public education in Texas.”

The petition, signed by 38 other House Democrats, was rejected by Abbott.

“My commitment to improving public schools is just as resolute as yours,” Abbott wrote. “To achieve our shared goal, however, it is incumbent upon you to work with your fellow Texas House members to muster the votes to get it passed—something you were unwilling to do last year.”

The public education funding battle now hinges on the voters who turn out on November 20, as Abbott’s inaction has left the decision in the hands of Texans, setting the stage for significant changes in the political landscape of public education.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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