Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told supporters gathered for his San Antonio campaign rally that he planned to tie education funding to students, rather than schools. It is a plan that could, hypothetically, steer money away from schools that seek to push a more liberal curriculum.
“We can fully fund public schools while also giving parents a choice about which school is right for their child,” The Texas Tribune quoted Abbott as saying. “Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student.”
The idea of school choice, as Abbott envisions it, would involve taking some of the funds normally allocated to schools and redirecting them to students for use in whichever public, private, or charter school they attend. In short, the dollars allocated for educating each student would travel with the student rather than being earmarked for the school for which the student is zoned.
“[This] does not mean that public schools will not be fully funded — whether they are urban, rural, suburban,” Abbott said. He added, “If you like the public school your child is attending, it will still be fully funded.”
As school is not among the choices Democrats tend to view as sacrosanct, the reaction from the left was predictably sour. Critics argue that allowing students to use taxpayer dollars to enter private schools will harm public schools.
Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s opponent in the upcoming Texas gubernatorial election, issued a series of tweets in response to Abbott’s remarks. While none of these tweets offered a counterproposal for parents with kids in failing schools, each post reiterated that school choice would amount to a wide-scale defunding of public schools.
Abbott is for defunding our public schools.
I'm for fully funding our kids’ classrooms and fully supporting parents, teachers, and students. https://t.co/jycFp9XO40
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 10, 2022
In a different tweet, O’Rourke wrote, “Abbott is already underfunding our classrooms by $4,000 per student. The last thing we need is to have him take our tax dollars out of our kids’ schools and send them away to private schools.”
Proponents of school choice say it’s in children’s best interest to have the freedom to be allowed to move to better-performing schools, or those that have a more agreeable curriculum. They also assert that it will specifically help those in underprivileged communities, incentivizing more competition to provide a better education in districts that often underperform.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said the idea of school choice was a matter of empowering parents to choose how best to educate their children.
School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century and I’m excited to see Texas take the lead in education by fighting for liberty. 3/x
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) May 12, 2022
“I have long urged Texas to stand with children and against the special interests that are trying to deny Texans the freedom to decide how education dollars are spent,” Cruz said in a statement. “No parent should be forced to send their children to failing schools, which is why I’m glad my friend Governor Abbott is so fervently supporting school choice. School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century and I’m excited to see Texas take the lead in education by fighting for liberty.”
One of Abbott’s campaign promises has been to grant more freedom to Texas parents in terms of deciding where and how their children are schooled, including granting parents control over school curriculum.
Importantly, though, school choice is by no means a unifying topic on the right. Rural Republicans in Texas have long expressed concern that school choice could harm country schools, where lower budgets already pose a challenge.
Even if Abbott is reelected and fully intends to push for school choice during ahis second term, he might yet struggle to gain the legislative support he’d need to bring the plan to fruition.