Filed Under: Politics

School choice advocates spend millions on Republicans in Texas

By

Groups committed to giving parents the option of sending their children to private schools using taxpayer dollars — sometimes known as “school choice” or “vouchers” — have given millions of dollars to Republican candidates in Texas this year. Political observers said as a result, public school funding is effectively on the ballot in the state during Tuesday’s elections.

The push for private school vouchers has been funded in large part by Defend Texas Liberty, a Christian nationalist-aligned political action committee led by a former far-right Republican state lawmaker and bankrolled by a pair of West Texas billionaires. According to an NBC News analysis of Texas Ethics Commission campaign finance reports and data compiled by the nonprofit OpenSecrets, the PAC has spent nearly $10 million this year, largely backing Republican candidates who support school choice and attacking those who oppose it.

“These groups have been demonizing what is being taught in public schools, and that’s the fastest way to erode faith that public schools work,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said. “Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. If people believe that it’s true, then it’s politically potent.”

Defend Texas Liberty gave $3.6 million to former state lawmaker Don Huffines, who ran against Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary. Huffines promised to crack down on medical care for transgender children, require the teaching of creationism in public schools and give parents government money to send their children to private schools.

The PAC also spent $168,000 supporting Republican Nate Schatzline, a former pastor running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Schatzline won a competitive GOP primary in a solidly conservative North Texas district in part by painting his Republican opponent as an advocate for teaching “leftist, woke ideologies” in schools.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently pledged to make school choice a priority in the next legislative session if he wins re-election over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. This fall, Defend Texas Liberty spent $100,000 to put up dozens of billboards along Texas highways, including some that showed a photo of O’Rourke next to a baseless allegation about “grooming” children, an anti-LGBTQ attack that’s become popular among conservatives this year.

“Abbott is now calling to defund public education with his voucher program that takes tax dollars out of public school classrooms across the state and sends them away to private schools,” Tori Larned, a spokesperson for O’Rourke’s campaign, said.

AS WE’RE ONE DAY AWAY FROM ELECTION DAY…
TEXAS REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT SITS COMFORTABLY IN THE POLLS AGAINST DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER BETO O’ROURKE —
UP BY AS MUCH AS NINE POINTS.
IF GOVERNOR ABBOTT IS GIVEN THE GREEN LIGHT FOR A THIRD TERM…
‘SCHOOL CHOICE’ COULD BECOME A PRIORITY.
PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING IS ON THE BALLOT IN TEXAS…
AS PART OF THE AGENDA BEHIND THE CHECKBOX BESIDE ABBOT’S NAME.
SCHOOL CHOICE ALLOWS PARENTS TO CHOOSE WHERE THEIR CHILD GOES TO SCHOOL…AND TAKE THEIR TAX DOLLARS WITH THEM.
IT ULTIMATELY COULD SEND STATE DOLLARS INTO THE PRIVATE SCHOOL SECTOR.
IT’S BECOME A MAJOR TALKING POINT AND A POLITICAL ISSUE AMONG PARENTS IN RECENT YEARS.
DISCUSSIONS OF CONTROVERSIAL CURRICULUM HAVE ESCALATED THE CRIES FOR SCHOOL CHOICE.
IN TEXAS…A WAVE OF MILLIONS OF CONSERVATIVE DOLLARS HAVE BACKED REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES WHO WOULD ALLOW FOR PRIVATE-SCHOOL VOUCHERS.
DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES ARGUE IT DANGEROUSLY DEFUNDS THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM.
WHILE GOVERNOR ABBOTT SAYS PARENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE AND VOWS TO DISCUSS OPTIONS IN THE NEXT LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

Groups committed to giving parents the option of sending their children to private schools using taxpayer dollars — sometimes known as “school choice” or “vouchers” — have given millions of dollars to Republican candidates in Texas this year. Political observers said as a result, public school funding is effectively on the ballot in the state during Tuesday’s elections.

The push for private school vouchers has been funded in large part by Defend Texas Liberty, a Christian nationalist-aligned political action committee led by a former far-right Republican state lawmaker and bankrolled by a pair of West Texas billionaires. According to an NBC News analysis of Texas Ethics Commission campaign finance reports and data compiled by the nonprofit OpenSecrets, the PAC has spent nearly $10 million this year, largely backing Republican candidates who support school choice and attacking those who oppose it.

“These groups have been demonizing what is being taught in public schools, and that’s the fastest way to erode faith that public schools work,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said. “Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. If people believe that it’s true, then it’s politically potent.”

Defend Texas Liberty gave $3.6 million to former state lawmaker Don Huffines, who ran against Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary. Huffines promised to crack down on medical care for transgender children, require the teaching of creationism in public schools and give parents government money to send their children to private schools.

The PAC also spent $168,000 supporting Republican Nate Schatzline, a former pastor running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Schatzline won a competitive GOP primary in a solidly conservative North Texas district in part by painting his Republican opponent as an advocate for teaching “leftist, woke ideologies” in schools.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently pledged to make school choice a priority in the next legislative session if he wins re-election over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. This fall, Defend Texas Liberty spent $100,000 to put up dozens of billboards along Texas highways, including some that showed a photo of O’Rourke next to a baseless allegation about “grooming” children, an anti-LGBTQ attack that’s become popular among conservatives this year.

“Abbott is now calling to defund public education with his voucher program that takes tax dollars out of public school classrooms across the state and sends them away to private schools,” Tori Larned, a spokesperson for O’Rourke’s campaign, said.

Related Reports


Get unbiased straight facts, context, and perspective!