The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has vowed to press on with his pro-school voucher reforms despite the Texas House of Representatives’ key vote rejecting them. Speaking on Friday, Abbott insisted he was not discouraged, but those who opposed him see things differently. This filibuster has been met with universal support from all corners of the state, a display of unity in the face of an issue that threatened to divide communities.
The proposed reforms would have afforded parents increased school choice, the ability to use state funds to send their children to non-public schools, and thus increase educational opportunities. But the vote — which saw 86 votes against Abbott’s proposals with just 52 in favor — is symbolic, as it is expected to be stripped by the Senate before the budget is passed. Nonetheless, the amendment does signal how members of the House will likely vote when similar legislation comes before them.
The vote comes as something of a blow to Governor Abbott, who has spent the last two months touring the state in an attempt to drum up support for the reforms. Abbott had lobbied hard for rural Republican support and even went as far as to call the issue an “emergency item” for this legislative session. Any proposed legislation requires a minimum of 76-member support to pass through the House, so the failure of Abbott’s reforms shows he still has a lot of convincing to do.
Despite Abbott’s amendment receiving the least support ever, the Governor’s camp sees the silver lining. Renae Eze, spokesperson for Governor Abbott said, “The amendment received the least support ever. This vote shows the legislature remains open to school choice, supporting the majority of Texans who want to expand school choice.” Eze added Abbott will stick to his guns and hold his 13th parent empowerment event on Thursday in San Antonio.
The Senate, however, sees things rather differently, as they have already passed school choice legislation to the House. The House committee will be taking up similar bills in the coming weeks, which will give Abbott another opportunity to lobby for his reforms. The Senate has also granted districts with fewer than 20,000 students to receive $10,000 for every student who enrolls in the program and leaves their district, a gesture designed to appeal to rural Republicans. It appears that Abbott’s fight is far from over, but the rejection in the House will have given those who oppose him some much-needed breathing space.
The battle between those who supported the reforms and those who did not generated plenty of public interest, and the Texas Tribune continues to be the go-to destination to keep up with the latest news. There are sure to be further developments in the coming weeks and months, and the Tribune will be there every step of the way.