The Texas House on Friday voted to strip school vouchers from the chamber’s massive education funding bill, effectively gutting Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priority from the legislation.
The House voted 84-63 in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. John Raney of College Station, which removed the provision of the bill allowing some parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private and religious schools. Twenty-one Republicans, most of whom represent rural districts, joined all Democrats in support.
They are: Raney, Steve Allison of San Antonio, Ernest Bailes of Shepherd, Keith Bell of Forney, DeWayne Burns of Cleburne, Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches, Drew Darby of San Angelo, Jay Dean of Longview, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Justin Holland of Rockwall, Kyle Kacal of College Station, Ken King of Canadian, John Kuempel of Seguin, Stan Lambert of Abilene, Andrew Murr of Junction, Four Price of Amarillo, Glenn Rogers of Graford, Hugh Shine of Temple, Reggie Smith of Sherman, Ed Thompson of Pearland and Gary VanDeaver of New Boston.
The outcome was an embarrassment to Abbott, who spent seven months lobbying two dozen Republicans who signaled opposition to vouchers in a test vote during the regular legislative session in April. His various strategies included holding events at private schools in rural areas, tying vouchers to increased public school funding, calling two special sessions dedicated to education, threatening to support primary challengers to Republicans who opposed vouchers and announcing a breakthrough deal with the holdouts that did not appear to exist.
None of it worked.
Just four of the former Republican holdouts opposed the anti-voucher amendment on Friday: Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Brooks Landgraf of Odessa, Angelia Orr of Itasca and David Spiller of Jacksboro. But Thompson was a new anti-voucher vote, bringing the governor’s net gain to three.
The future of school vouchers is now in doubt; Abbott has said he will veto any education legislation that does not contain vouchers. The governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Emphasis mine, because I felt like it. Abbott has threatened to continue calling special sessions until this passes, and maybe he’ll actually do that. At least as likely, he’ll campaign against all these Republicans. That will be the bigger test. But man, for a guy who’s won a bunch of elections Greg Abbott sure does take a lot of Ls. I’ll never stop celebrating that.