At a church in Southeast Houston on Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott encouraged supporters to advocate for legislation that's divided the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature — the creation of a school voucher-like program that would give taxpayer dollars to parents who send kids to private school.
Abbott told supporters to call lawmakers in the Texas House, where a large block of lawmakers — including many Rural Republicans — remains skeptical of his priority legislation.
"You want them to know where your voice is on school choice," he said. "That will move the needle."
It was his latest stop in a string of events branded as "parent empowerment nights." He's stumped for school voucher-like programs at churches and private schools across the state as the issue divides lawmakers in his own party.
The Texas Senate already passed SB 8 and SB 1474. Both would give money to families who send kids to private school in the form of "education savings accounts (ESAs)." SB 8 would fund tuition and other expenses for all newly enrolling private school students, while also temporarily filling in funding for small public school districts that lose enrollment. SB 1474 — which state senators passed on Tuesday — would create ESAs for students with disabilities, and it would overhaul the funding formula for special education in public schools.
But the proposals face an uphill fight in the Texas House, where lawmakers are wary of diverting any public dollars towards private, religious institutions.
Abbott framed the issue as parents getting to choose which "agenda" students are exposed to "because it’s your agenda that matters the most."
His speech was briefly interrupted by a protest over his comments about the victims of the Cleveland shooting, who he incorrectly referred to as "five illegal immigrants" in his first statement on the massacre. Abbott did not address the shooting or manhunt during his speech, but he praised law enforcement later in the night after the suspected shooter was arrested.