To say that State Rep. David Simpson has had a tumultuous relationship with the issue of school choice and educational freedom would be an understatement. The Longview-based Republican has carefully straddled the fence on an issue popular with more than 80 percent of GOP voters.
In 2013, Simpson voted for a Democrat’s amendment that would have prohibited any school choice programs from being implemented in Texas. Less than two years later, though, Simpson was heralding a tax credit program — which likely would have been problematic under the 2013 proposal — to create school choice.
As the campaign heated up, Simpson bristled at suggestions he was opposed to school choice — only that he opposes “vouchers,” which he has described as “redistribution.”
At a debate late in February, he took a confusingly nuanced view of school choice, telling the audience:
“They should be empowered to direct education to their children whether it is in a public school, which most of us choose, or a private school or homeschooling. And if someone is doing that on a temporary basis, I do think the state should recognize that they do not have to do that work and I don’t think any money needs to change hands, but we can say that they should receive the credit, temporarily, for performing that education that the state does not have to pick up and do.”
And in an email to supporters on March 10, Simpson wrote that school choice plans that would “substantially alter public education is not in the best interest of our children, their parents, or the school districts in Senate District 1.”
A recent report by the establishment-leaning Texas Association of Business suggests that there does need to be some altering of public education. The group found that only “around 25 percent of all of our graduates are career or college ready.”
And then there are those Republican Primary voters. The 2012 ballot had this proposition:
The state should fund education by allowing dollars to follow the child instead of the bureaucracy, through a program which allows parents the freedom to choose their child’s school, public or private, while also saving significant taxpayer dollars.
Of the 1.3 million who voted, 83.4 percent voted “yes.” In Simpson’s home county, 82.66 percent of the voters said “yes.”
Simpson faces Bryan Hughes in a May 24 primary run-off.