Is Abbott's move on school vouchers a signal of White House aspirations?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s renewed push for school vouchers is a piece of his “parental rights” platform, which itself could be a signal of future political aspirations, according to a political science and communication professor.

“Make no mistake, the governor is laying out not only a strategy to embolden his campaign for re-election, I think everything he’s been doing since the end of the special session has been a test to see how these themes would work at a national level,” said Dr. Richard Pineda with the University of Texas at El Paso.

“I think a lot of what you’re seeing is the governor teeing up what his approach is going to be if and when he decides to run for the White House,” Pineda added.

At a campaign event Monday, Abbott pledged his support for school choice.

“Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student.”

The plan could have big financial effects on school districts that rely on student attendance figures for funding.

The governor said it is “imperative” to “fully fund public schools in Texas.”

Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators said Abbott’s framing of vouchers as a “parents’ rights” issue is misleading.

“Parents would surrender the right to run their child’s school through an elected school board, the right to view curriculum, the right to demand open records, the right to accountability scores, not to mention federal rights for a disabled child,” Wiggins told KXAN. “And private schools will still have the right to choose who they admit.”

Vouchers have run into political opposition at the state capitol from some rural lawmakers (both Democratic and Republican) who represent areas with few school options.

“I think the governor does run the risk of putting himself in a bad spot in some of the conservative rural areas where the public school district really is the only game in town,” Pineda said.

Abbott’s remarks Monday were greeted with applause from the Texas Federation for Children (TFC), part of the pro-school choice American Federation for Children.

“Students — not teachers, not administrators, not systems or bureaucracies — are the reason we have a constitutional right to an education, and that right must extend to a clearly articulated and well-funded system that allows parents to pick the school which is best for their child,” a TFC statement read.

“Thanks to Greg Abbott’s leadership, the educational freedom movement in Texas has been lit on fire,” the statement continued.

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