Texas: The Issue Is - Governor Abbott pledges to push 'school choice' through legislative head wind
HOUSTON - Five days after his "school choice" proposal was gunned down by the Texas House in a budgetary "test vote", Governor Greg Abbott drew a line in the sand for lawmakers in the lower chamber.
"One size does not fit all. No one in government knows more than Mom and Dad about which education option is best and that is what we will deliver this session by empowering parents to choose the education that's best for their child," said Abbott in a speech to business leaders in Houston.
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In his third term after walloping a well-known, well-funded Democratic challenger by double digits, Abbott, unlike past sessions, appears unwilling to buckle to legislative progressives and rural Republicans who fear vouchers will dilute funding for public schools.
"Some say school choice is going to defund our public schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's just factually incorrect. Per-student funding for public schools is at an all-time high and this session we are going to add even more money for public education, as well as teacher, pay raises," said Abbott. "The issue about whether schools are fully-funded is answered. We are funding schools better today than ever before and we will fund them even more at the end of this session, but one thing anybody in business understands is that spending more money doesn't always lead to better results."
Analysts have linked Abbott's pledge to force vouchers through to potential presidential aspirations and a desire to match "school choice" measures adopted in Florida and other red states.
"If you look at what's happened in other states, Florida for example, 20 years ago in 2002, Florida embarked upon school choice in their state, and at that time students who were coming from low-income families tested on these national tests as one of the worst in the country. Now, 20 years later, they test among the top of the best in the country," said Abbott. "What school choice does, it insures competition occurs in the education place and public schools. In Florida public schools are doing better, private schools in Florida are doing better, and homeschooling in Florida is doing better, across the board education is better, as a component of multiple aspects to improve education."
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With a majority of Texans consistently backing "choice" in statewide polls sources tell "Texas: The Issue Is" Abbott stands willing to wield a veto pen or convene special sessions to push some form of the measure through a reluctant lower chamber.
And he will have the full backing of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, leader of the Texas Senate.
"This is the future of Texas, the future of America, to educate our kids," said Abbott.