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Abbott may have enough votes for school choice

As many GOP incumbents lost to pro-school choice challengers in Tuesday’s runoff elections, Gov. Greg Abbott is celebrating the notion that he may be able to get his priority legislation across the finish line next legislative session.

“The Texas legislature now has enough votes to pass school choice,” Abbott wrote in the aftermath of the runoff elections Tuesday night.

“Together, we will ensure the best future for our children.”

Katrina Pierson ousted incumbent Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwell), Alan Schoolcraft defeated Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin), and Helen Kerwin took down Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne).

After the March 5 primary set the stage with multiple anti-school choice incumbents losing or stepping into open seats, the floor was set for the trend to continue in the runoffs.

In total, 14 new pro-school choice members will likely be taking seats in the Texas House — nine challengers who beat incumbents and five who took over open seats.

Corey DeAngelis, a school choice advocate, called it a “political earthquake.”

If all pro-school choice candidates win in November, that will put 77 pro-school choice members in the Texas House — compared to the 63 who voted against stripping ESAs from the education omnibus last year.

Throughout the entire 88th Legislative Session, including its four special sessions, school choice legislation was a constant source of fighting among lawmakers. The twists and turns of this policy debate culminated in November, when an amendment from Rep. John Raney (R-College Station) was adopted to remove education savings accounts (ESA), the governor’s preferred mechanism for school choice, from the House’s education omnibus bill.

Abbott made his school choice preference well-known, as he would continue to rally for pro-school choice candidates who were challenging incumbents while also endorsing the 58 members who voted against Raney’s amendment that stripped ESAs from the education legislation.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who also won his runoff race, released interim charges earlier this month, including that the Committee on Public Education will evaluate how ESAs are used in other states and make recommendations for a program in Texas.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also released a list of interim charges for the Texas Senate and said the issue of school choice will be a priority going into the 89th Legislature.

“Come January 2025, the Senate will hit the ground running at the start of the 89th Legislative Session,” Patrick said. “The priorities of the conservative majority of Texans will be accomplished, including school choice, continued property tax relief, and strengthening the power grid.”

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