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"Greg Abbott" by Gage Skidmore, Modifications: Crop is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

About those Greg Abbott endorsements

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 2/21/2024 | Author: Kate Johanns

This year’s Republican primary election features an unusual player throwing his support behind candidates challenging incumbents: Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Political junkies may even consider that Abbott is breaking the so-called “Eleventh Commandment” of politics, as coined by none other than the late President Ronald Reagan: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” That “commandment” has been thrown out the window in Texas House races featuring those Republican House members who defied the governor during the 83rd Legislature and stopped his push for a private school voucher program. Their standing strong for public schools took many forms, including voting not to let the House Public Education Committee hold a hurry-up meeting to push through an unvetted voucher bill, and voting for the Raney Amendment, which stripped private school vouchers from the last school finance bill of the final special session of 2023.

The ultimate outcome of all of this legislatin’ was no legislation, but the story of how we ended up with no legislation to increase public education funding and provide an educator pay raise is being twisted in the primary mudslinging, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. What Abbott and likeminded voucher proponents are couching as a vote against public school funding/educator pay raises was in fact a vote for the protection of public schools and educators by supporting an amendment removing private school vouchers from a school finance bill. In fact, it was House Public Education Committee Chair Brad Buckley (R–Salado) who pulled his bill from further consideration once it no longer contained vouchers, likely on the governor's behalf. Despite having threatened to veto any education legislation that reached his desk without a voucher, there is little doubt the governor did not want to actually have vetoing a popular teacher pay raise on his record. It is far less of a stretch to say that pressure from Abbott stopped consideration of increased public school funding and an educator pay raise than it is to say any of the pro-public education legislators who voted yes on the Raney Amendment did.

What we are seeing now is what Abbott said would be the “hard way” of passing a private school voucher. From the outset of the 88th Legislature, Abbott was clear: No voucher, no public school funding. In addition, he pressured lawmakers to pass such a program by promising that if they didn’t implement a private school voucher “the easy way” (i.e., through legislation), he would do it “the hard way”—by remaking the Legislature during the Texas Republican primary, the point at which nearly every legislative race is decided.

Abbott did not originate this strategy. It’s a model successfully employed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who broke the “Eleventh Commandment” in order to pass vouchers in her state. Abbott is now putting the Iowa strategy to work with the help of some of the same deep-pocketed, out-of-state friends now helping Abbott. In December, Abbott received a $6 million donation from Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass, for whom implementing private school vouchers is a priority issue. Abbott is well known for his fundraising abilities, and he raised over $19 million in the last six months of 2023. Per his campaign, the Yass donation is the single largest campaign donation in Texas history.

Abbott tweet 2-9-24Despite previous public statements that he would not get involved in House members’ elections, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the Texas Senate, is also weighing in on the lower chamber’s races, specifically endorsing the opponents of Rep. Ernest Bailes (R–Shepherd), Rep. DeWayne Burns (R–Cleburne), and Rep. John Kuempel (R–Seguin), all of whom voted for the Raney Amendment.

Abbott tweet 2-10-24Abbott first weighed in on the primaries Nov. 20, just days after the Raney Amendment vote, when he endorsed every Republican incumbent except those who had voted against him on vouchers. Since then, he has been on a statewide tour to support those incumbents’ challengers, as well as a social media blitz calling them “frauds” and “liars.” Again, the facts have been twisted. Recent ads on both sides have attempted to draw border issues into the equation, overlooking the fact that the governor himself signed a bill (the budget bill) that funds the educations of undocumented immigrant children—as, of course, the Texas Constitution, as determined by the conservative-leaning 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, obligates the state to educate every child living within a school district’s boundary lines.

All of this is undignified behavior for the chief executive of the world’s eighth-largest economy, but that’s the world we live in, and many speculate Abbott is eyeing a possible spot in a second Trump administration and is therefore unconcerned about any potential backlash from Texas House members who might still be angry with him over these attacks during the next legislative session. One has to wonder what Ronald Reagan would think—and to hope that voters look past the pejorative nonsense and consider actual voting records.



Amanda Headrick Kelley

You may be have a point there, Kirk, but on the other hand no one realizes the real cost of vouchers and how devastating it could be to the state''s budget. If you don''t believe it check with some other states who do have a voucher system and see how their state has faired. Has anyone thought of the fact that private schools are private for a reason? They can pick and choose who is admitted into their schools, they have rules that are expected to be followed, and private schools that I have visited with say they don''t want the government holding them hostage because they received money from government funds. The money projected that will be given to students to enroll in their private school will not come close to covering the cost for the year. It appears to me it is just another way to tip the scales to those wealthier parents.

Kirk Ronson

Abbott may have a legitimate point in his support of school vouchers. Until TEA returns the classrooms to teachers so they can educate students, stops requiring them to be social workers and mostly eliminates all the unnecessary paper work, private school vouchers seem a reasonable alternative in the public''s view. Our public schools are held in low esteem by the public due to the fact that professional educators are required to teach to tests, to be surrogate parents, to instruct in morals and other matters better left to parents, rather than providing education in skills that lead to success.

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