Abbott promises school vouchers will come to Texas soon

Governor Abbott is promising that school vouchers will be coming to Texas in the next legislative session. 

Abbott made those claims right here on FOX 7 Austin's Texas: The issue Is. The governor says he's very confident that his plan to get pro-voucher Republicans in office is working, and Republicans will have 76 votes, which is what's needed right now for legislation to move out of the House. 

Democratic analyst Ed Espinoza and Matt Mackowiak, chair of the Travis County Republican Party, joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MORE: Gov. Abbott 'certain' school vouchers will pass next session

MIKE WARREN: Matt Mackowiak, some of these rural Republicans who opposed vouchers say they did so because that's what their constituents wanted, despite what the governor said. What's your take on that? 

MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah. So, if you remember, the governor pushed forward with a school choice proposal. That was an educational savings account bill modeled after success, as we've seen in places like Arizona, Tennessee, Florida, in the session and then in several special sessions. That last vote, I think it was in either September or October, came up 11 votes short of the 76 they needed in the House. He has used that issue, in addition to us, Senator Ted Cruz and others outside groups, to target members who oppose school choice and to support candidates who do. He picked up nine of the 11 seats that he needed on March 4th in the primary. He has six primaries that are contested in a couple of open seat primaries. All he needs is two more votes to get to the 76 number. So, yes, he is going to get there. He is going to get there because the issue is powerful. And to your question, our voters, I think those members may have made a miscalculation. While they may have their own reasons for why, substantively, they wanted to do what they decided to do, the electorate decided that school choice was something that they should support. And that's why those candidates won and those incumbents lost. 

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, this political infighting inside the Republican Party. Who's benefiting from this? Will Democrats benefit from this, from this fight? 

ED ESPINOZA: Well, I don't think it benefits. I don't think Democrats will benefit from it. But more importantly, I just don't think that voters or Texans as a whole will benefit from this. You know, it's going back to the school voucher issue. This is essentially taking state tax revenue and giving it to private schools. It is welfare for private schools. And when it comes to the idea of school choice, we have school choice in Texas. If you're in a district like here in Austin and you don't like the school year, and you can go to a different school, that is a choice. But getting money to go to a private school, taking it from the public system to the private system. Not only does that represent something that is really troublesome on our already underfunded public schools, but it will never be enough to pay that public school tuition. Each voter is going to get about $8,000 per kid. Tuition can be anywhere between 20 and $30,000 a year. I most people are not going to be able to make up that difference, and they're going to have their kids in public schools that have even less money than they do now. 

MIKE WARREN: Okay. You know, this question is really for both of you. But starting with you, Matt, you mentioned that this school voucher, this plan, this education plan that the governor wants has been done in several other states. What is the track record of this plan in the other states? I mean, that should give us an idea of if this does work? Does this not work? Matt, starting with you.

MATT MACKOWIAK: So glad you asked. Look, school choice is the civil rights issue of our time. And I have news for my friend Ed Espinosa. The competition has been good for every aspect of human existence. We now need some in the education realm. Florida. You've seen poor, poor students perform better. You've seen them graduate to higher levels. You've seen them read, read and write at a grade level faster. So, those competition elements have been very, very, very helpful in Florida, Tennessee and in Arizona. 

MIKE WARREN: Okay. Ed, your response.

ED ESPINOZA: Look. Here's a message for Republicans out there. We're all of the book banning and all the restrictions that have been made on public schools. None of that applies to private schools. So, with this voucher system coming online, if it does everything they have fought for to try and restrict public schools is going to be wide open in the private schools. It really conflicts where they position themselves on these things, and I honestly don't know how they square that.