As the gubernatorial race heads into the final stretch and the Texas GOP has made school choice a legislative priority, Texas voters have made it clear that they support parental rights in education.

According to a September poll from Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, 60 percent of Texas voters support school choice, while only 28 percent were opposed.

The school choice system would allow parents to be directly involved in their children’s education and allow them to receive state funding to help enroll their children in the schools they believe best fit their needs.

Recently passed legislation in Arizona, for example, allows families to receive up to $7,000 per child.

Gov. Greg Abbott has ramped up his support for the school choice movement this year, stating parents are an important part of their child’s education and they should play a role in that decision.

“For Texas to be able to succeed, our students must be able to succeed, and no one is more important in that process than those children’s parents. There is no government program that can replace the role that a parent plays in the life of a child,” Abbott said earlier this year.

“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.”

Additionally, Abbott has reassured voters that if they choose to send their children to public schools, they will continue to be fully funded.

No governor has devoted more resources to public education than I have,” said Abbott. “In 2019, we increased public education funding by more than $5 billion per biennium, and in 2021 we added even more. It is imperative that we continue to fully fund Texas public schools. We can fully fund schools while also giving parents a choice about which school is best for their child.”

“Governor Abbott oversaw the largest increase ever in public school funding and will ensure full funding for public schools continues,” said Mark Miner, Abbott’s communication director. “The governor strongly believes parents deserve more involvement in their children’s education needs.”

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke has continually criticized Abbott’s support of school choice, accusing the governor of underfunding public schools and arguing that Texas has hyper-fixated on standardized testing, tying teachers’ hands on what they can teach.

O’Rourke has pledged that he will reject any effort to “remove public tax dollars” from public schools.

“For our rural communities, where there’s only one school district and only one option of public school, he wants to defund that through vouchers, take your tax dollars out of your classroom and send it to a private school in Dallas or Austin or somewhere else at your expense,” O’Rourke said at a campaign event.

According to the UTT/DMN poll, school choice is supported by 65 percent of Hispanics, 57 percent of blacks, and 59 percent of whites. The poll found it is supported by 53 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans.

Whether school choice legislation will pass in the Republican-led Legislature is anything but certain. Last session, the issue was soundly quashed by legislators in the Texas House (including a majority of Republican members).

Though some uncertainty around the fate of school choice proposals in the next legislative session remains, Abbott has continued to double down on his stance that school choice is important, while O’Rourke says he will reject any policy supporting it.

The election will take place on November 8.

Emily Wilkerson

Emily is a summer fellow for Texas Scorecard. She is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, studying journalism with a minor in political science. She enjoys investigative journalism and making sure that every side of a story is being told.

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