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Texas Governor Vows to Sign School Choice Bill

Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed to sign school choice legislation that reaches his desk, loudly signaling he hopes to see a bill from the 85th Legislature.

“I know that Lieutenant Governor Patrick and legislative leaders in both House and Senate are working on laws that will enable school choice in Texas. I want that law to reach my desk and when it does I will make the choice to sign it,” said Abbott on Tuesday at the annual school choice rally held at the Capitol.

The Texas School Choice Coalition also named Abbott their 2017 Education Champion Award for his unwavering commitment to school choice. The Governor underscored school choice is not a Republican or Democrat issue but is “a civil rights issue,” echoing sentiments first shared by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2014.

Event organizers told Breitbart Texas more than 4,000 school choice supporters, including students, teachers, and parents, rallied for expanded school choice options. While the state currently offers school choice in the forms of traditional public school, public charter, plus private and home school, an education savings account (ESA) would set aside a fixed amount of taxpayer dollars for a family to use, if they choose to do so, for options like private school tuition or tutoring.

Abbott called school choice “common sense,” noting “one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to education.” While “fit” matters, another rationale behind ESA’s is “zip code,” the idea that children get stuck in failing schools because their parents cannot financially afford to send them to a better school.

“It’s time to empower all parents to choose a school that’s best for their child and it’s time to ensure no child is stuck in a failing school,” added Abbott.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also keynoted at the rally, highlighting school choice as his top priority in the ongoing legislative session. Since joining the Texas Senate in 2007, he has advocated ardently for education choice.

Later, Patrick tweeted a video statement, asking the Texas House for an up-or-down vote on school choice bills this session.

“Don’t block a bill because when you block a bill on education, you block those children’s futures,” he said, likely alluding to a 2015 education tax credit scholarship bill (S.B. 4) the Texas Senate passed and a less enthusiastic House squashed during the 84th Legislature.

The bill would have allowed low income and special needs children in failing public schools to attend private school with tuition assistance from private donors. Subsequently, Patrick charged the Senate Education Committee with studying school choice programs in other states. He promised a more comprehensive school choice bill for the 85th Legislature.

Also, on Tuesday, Cruz voiced his support for Texas leadership in expanding school choice:

While there remains an enormous task before us to give every child access to a quality education, I am encouraged by progress that has been made in my home state of Texas. Since 2000, the number of charter schools in Texas has more than tripled. And currently before the Texas Legislature are significant measures that will continue to expand school choice across our state.

I stand in support of them and proudly stand with our state leaders, like Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and many others who are working hard to make the dream of education equality a reality.

Conversely, the state’s establishment educrats oppose school choice. They assert the way to fix education is to spend more tax dollars on the existing public school system. They argue school choice undermines public school by diverting taxpayer dollars from their war chests into those of private institutions with little or no accountability. The Coalition for Public School and its member groups only support public school options like magnets, or intra- and inter- district transfers. They push for teacher union-backed community schools to fend off charters when a failing public school faces closure.

Even some home school parents have expressed concerns over privately funded school choice, wondering if it will have “strings attached” to government intervention and regulation that can impact the state’s hard-fought homeschooling freedoms. These questions they hope will be answered once the bill gets filed.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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