Anti-ESA Republicans Lose in Texas Primaries, Paving the Way for School Choice Expansion

In a landmark victory for Gov. Greg Abbott and school choice proponents nationwide, conservative challengers emerged triumphant over three Republican state representatives in the Texas primary elections on Tuesday night.

The outcome could pave the way for the statewide implementation of education savings accounts (ESAs), enabling families to utilize public funds for private schooling.

The vote counts on Wednesday morning showed that DeWayne Burns, Justin Holland, and John Kuempel, incumbent Republican lawmakers, were defeated by their primary rivals, each receiving endorsements from Abbott and state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Meanwhile, Gary Vandeaver, a seasoned Texas House representative, secured his re-election by a margin of just under 1,400 votes.

These lawmakers had opposed the governor’s efforts last year to establish universal ESAs across the state. Despite their resistance, along with House Democrats and certain rural Republicans, they prohibited the use of state funding for any form of school vouchers in a significant vote last spring, which was reiterated in a subsequent special session called by Abbott months later.

In response to the legislative resistance, Abbott and prominent conservative donors backed ESA proponents against the incumbents in state primary elections, resulting in the removal of 13 Republican opponents of ESAs, potentially shifting the odds in favor of universal ESAs this time around.

Although the path for passing a new school choice bill remains uncertain as the Texas Legislature is adjourned until next year, the outcome of the November elections will play a critical role in determining the legislative landscape. The composition of the partisan divide following the elections will influence the prospects of statewide ESAs, especially considering the possible actions of anti-voucher Republicans.

Buoyed by their triumph, Abbott declared that House Republicans now had enough votes to support school choice initiatives.

While victory wasn’t total, Abbott emphasized the prevailing sentiment from this year’s primaries – Texans are in favor of school choice. Recent surveys indicate substantial support for ESAs among Texans, despite certain opposition factions.

Reacting to the primary results, Zeph Capo, president of the teachers’ union affiliate Texas AFT, pointed out the considerable financial backing from well-funded school choice advocates influencing the outcome, underscoring that the fate of ESAs still hangs in the balance.

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