Gov. Abbott says he’s got the votes for ‘School Choice,’ looks toward November



Gov. Abbott says he’s got the votes for ‘School Choice,’ looks toward November

Before the May runoffs, Abbott said he was two votes short. Tuesday night he appeared to clear that hurdle

NBC 5 News

After Tuesday night’s runoff election, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says he’s got the votes he needs to pass his school choice voucher program in the next session and that opponents “can no longer ignore the will of the people.”

Eyed as one of the governor’s top priorities, if eventually passed, Education Savings Accounts would provide taxpayer funds for private school tuition by allowing students to leave public schools they feel aren’t serving them in favor of private schools that align with their academic, religious, or cultural goals.

Opponents worry the program would take money away from public schools, many of which are underfunded according to school leaders and are facing budget shortfalls.

The proposal to allow taxpayer funds for private school tuition has passed the Senate multiple times but has not been able to get out of the Texas House, even after the governor called repeated special sessions to take up the legislation last fall.

In November 2023, the Texas House voted to strip the Education Savings Accounts proposal out of a larger education bill 84 to 63. The bill also included billions in more school funding and teacher pay raises but the governor vowed not to sign any education-related bills that didn’t include the voucher program.

This spring, the governor threw his support behind primary candidates who supported his school choice bill instead of supporting incumbents who voted against his priority. During the March primary election, Abbott knocked off several opponents of the policy and said going into the primary runoff he was only two votes short of the 76 threshold needed to pass something in the Texas House.

“The Texas Legislature now has enough votes to pass school choice. This is a victory for every Texas family across our great state. While we did not win every race we fought in, the overall message from this year’s primaries is clear: Texans want school choice. Opponents of school choice can no longer ignore the will of the people,” Abbott said.

The primary winners still have to face Democrats in the November election, but the districts have been drawn to heavily favor the parties in control and are unlikely to flip. The Democrats can still throw a wrench in Abbott’s plans if they pick up two or three seats in the November election.

“As we look ahead to the November general election, we will continue to work tirelessly to elect strong, conservative candidates who will ensure every child in Texas has access to the best education possible—regardless of their zip code or economic background. Working together, we will create an even brighter future for generations to come,” the governor said.

Critics of the governor’s plan are skeptical about the amount of money pouring into the state from outside groups supporting Education Savings Accounts. Earlier this year, Abbott received the largest political donation in Texas history, $6 million, from Pennsylvania TikTok investor Jeff Yass. In the March primary, Abbott spent roughly $6 million in about a dozen House races.