As attention on indoctrination inside public education continues to grow, a renewed interest in legislative efforts to increase parental choice in education has begun to emerge.
But as this school choice resurgence blossoms, Gov. Greg Abbott’s position on the issue has been murky. And recent events have only made his position more opaque.
As defined by the Republican Party of Texas, school choice refers to legislation that would “empower parents and guardians to choose from public, private, charter, or homeschool options for their children’s education using tax credits or exemptions without government restraint or intrusion.”
School choice was even a legislative priority of the Texas GOP heading into the last session, though the issue was soundly quashed by legislators in the Texas House (including a majority of Republican members).
After first being elected in 2014, Abbott would headline School Choice Week rallies on the Texas Capitol steps, donning the movement’s signature yellow scarf. As the years went on, Abbott’s embrace of the plan appears to have dwindled. Though he recorded a brief video for School Choice Week in 2022, his message steered clear of mentioning any legislative solutions. And at an event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation earlier this year, Abbott only stated that there would be “a” school choice push next session, but he did not say that he would be leading it.
The issue continued to grow after Abbott issued a series of endorsements in the Republican primary runoffs. Parental rights advocates quickly noted that several of endorsements were aligned with liberal teacher unions that have long opposed school choice and other forms of education reform, even as parents continue to discover pornographic material and critical race theory being promulgated in public schools.
Additionally, Abbott has endorsed incumbents, such as State Reps. Glenn Rogers (R–Mineral Wells) and Kyle Kacal (R–Bryan), who have voted against school choice efforts during their time in office.
Many of his endorsements have also contrasted those made by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who had previously noted that school choice would be a critical factor in his decision process for offering endorsements.
It is a recent comment from a left-wing activist that is raising more questions about Abbott’s position on the issue.
Charlie Johnson is the executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, an anti-school choice group that supports pro-abortion, liberal Democrats and opposes reform in education.
During a forum on education held this week at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Johnson stated that rural members of the Texas House told him they had spoken with Abbott and he would not be pushing school choice legislation in the next session.
BREAKING: Charlie Johnson: "My phone was lighting up from rural House members … 'take a breath, just got off the phone with [Governor Abbott], he ain't gonna push a voucher bill.'"
Is this true @GregAbbott_TX? pic.twitter.com/mEp2uhIY0u
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) April 20, 2022
While it is possible Johnson could be misrepresenting his conversations with rural lawmakers—or they could be misrepresenting their conversations with the governor—a late-night response from Abbott muddied the issue even further.
In response to a clip of the comment being shared on Twitter by Corey DeAngelis, the national director of research at the school choice advocacy organization American Federation for Children, Abbott fired back at 12:40 a.m.
1. I don’t know who this person is.
2. I’ve never talked to this person.
3. He and I did not speak as he claims.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 20, 2022
In his response, Abbott claimed to have never spoken to Johnson and claimed to not even know who he was.
Many quickly noted, however, that Abbott’s response failed to address what was said at the forum. Johnson did not claim to have spoken with Abbott; he said that lawmakers spoke with Abbott and relayed their conversations to him.
Also notably absent in Abbott’s rebuttal was any repudiation that he would not push for school choice legislation in the upcoming session.
Texas Scorecard asked Abbott’s office if the governor or anyone on staff had spoken with any state lawmakers about the issue. As of publishing, we have not received a response.