Abbott pledges to deliver on school choice legislation

Despite a recent Texas House vote to prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for private education, Gov. Greg Abbott pledged on Tuesday that a Texas school choice initiative would pass “this session.”

“One size does not fit all. No one in government knows better than mom and dad about which education option is the best for their child and that is what we will deliver this session,” said Abbott.

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Houston Region Business Coalition, Abbott noted that Texas has been the number one state in the nation for job creation and exports before asking the audience what the goal should be for public education in the state.

“There seems to be ambiguity about what we want to achieve in education,” said Abbott.

“This is the future of Texas, the future of America, to educate our kids. We should have as a state, a goal of nothing less than having the best education system in the United States.”

In reference to the upcoming Texas Education Agency takeover of the Houston Independent School District, Abbott said the state had to determine what was needed to put the troubled district back on the pathway to success, and added that school choice would lead to improvement in all schools.

Abbott pointed to data showing that at the onset of Florida’s school choice programs 20 years ago, low-income students scored among the worst, but now score among the highest on national assessments, and all schools, public and private, improved student achievement across the state.

“What school choice does is ensure competition in the education place,” said Abbott. “It is a component of multiple aspects to improve education.”

Noting that state funding for public education was at an all-time high, Abbott warned that spending more money does not always lead to better results.

On the same day that the Texas House amended the state budget to block funding for school choice last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill (SB) 8 creating $8,000 education savings accounts for a limited number of families.

The governor has campaigned heavily for school choice legislation this year, making appearances at private schools across the state since January. Of the House members he endorsed in Republican primary elections last year, Reps. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) and Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) voted for the House budget amendment to block public funds for school choice initiatives. Some of the Republicans who voted for the prohibition, such as Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), have since indicated a willingness to support some form of school choice legislation.

In other comments, Abbott also touted the economic success of the Lone Star State but expressed support for creating a new economic incentive program offering tax abatements to replace the controversial “Chapter 313” abatement program that came to an end in 2022.

“No state can offer the economic opportunity the great state of Texas can offer,” said Abbott. “We’re working on new development economic incentive tools to make sure Texas will remain number 1.”

The governor also boasted that while California was struggling to manage a $20 billion deficit, Texas would be using a portion of its $35 billion surplus to enact the “largest property tax cut in the history of the State of Texas.”

Abbott also celebrated plans to create a $1 billion endowment for the University of Houston this year, expressed support for the creation of a Texas Space Commission, and vowed the state would both start and complete the Interstate-45 Improvement Project in Houston.

Under the category of regulatory reform, Abbott said the Legislature was in the process of standardizing regulations.

“What we are going to pass is a state law that will ensure that we streamline the regulatory process across the entire state so that even at the local level developers and businesses will not have to deal with the red tape that slows them down and drives up the cost.”

Although Abbott did not specify legislation under consideration, a measure authored by Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine) would implement statewide standards for the review of property development plans and permits. Harris’ proposal, House Bill 14, has been placed on the April 12 House Calendar.