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2025 Texas Legislature will have pro-school voucher majority, Abbott says after runoff elections

Becky Fogel
/
KUT

Six out of eight incumbent Republican lawmakers who opposed private school vouchers last year went down to defeat in the GOP primary runoffs. Governor Greg Abbott now claims the next Legislature will have the majority he needs to pass vouchers into law.

"This is a victory for every Texas family across our great state," Abbott said in a statement released late Tuesday night. "While we did not win every race we fought in, the overall message from this year's primaries is clear: Texans want school choice. Opponents of school choice can no longer ignore the will of the people."

Abbott made the passage of some form of school vouchers, a system that would allow the use of public tax dollars to subsidize private school tuition, one of his emergency items for the current Legislature. The Senate passed voucher bills, but the measures died in the House, first in the regular session, then in several special sessions.

After the final defeat of 2023, Abbott pledged to support primary opponents of Republicans who opposed vouchers. He subsequently spent at least $6 million to that end, much of it stemming from a single campaign contribution – reputed to be the largest such contribution in Texas' history – from billionaire Pennsylvania tech investor and voucher supporter Jeff Yass.

Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, issued his own statement in response to Abbott's. "What have we learned so far from this year's election cycle in Texas?" Capo said. "Very little besides what we already knew: if you've got enough money, you can buy whatever seat you want. Mostly."

State Representative Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) is a former school administrator and one of the few Republican opponents of vouchers who survived a primary runoff.

"I was saddened that we lost some really good members last night," VanDeaver said. "I'm not totally surprised. It's just hard to survive the kind of attacks that we have all been under for about the last six months."

VanDeaver said the governor may have the math on his side, but that doesn't necessarily mean vouchers will pass in the form Abbott wants.

"I do believe that there are some members that maybe would vote for a voucher who would have a hard time voting for a universal voucher that's going to hit the budget for $22 billion in the fifth year for the biennium," VanDeaver said. "I think there are some good strong conservatives who will scratch their heads and say, ‘How is that conservative?'"

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Andrew Schneider | Houston Public Media