School Vouchers Face Conservative Opposition in Texas

Here’s an interesting ideological and cultural split.

Texas is one of just seven states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and governorships that have stonewalled private school choice — and many others are small and rural, such as North Dakota and Wyoming.

Leaders of the school choice movement are stumped by the rebuff since Texas usually leads the nation in driving the conservative agenda. They have vowed to spend money and recruit primary challengers to defeat anti-school choice legislators.

“Texas is hailed to be this conservative, deep red state but you look across the country where we have school choice programs and it’s places like Indiana and Ohio and Wisconsin,” said Randan Steinhauser, co-founder of the pro-school choice group Texans for Education Opportunity. “It’s really frustrating.”

Steinhauser worked in Washington for Betsy DeVos, the outspoken school choice advocate who is now Trump’s education secretary. She thought she could advance the cause after returning to her native state four years ago: “I was kind of naive thinking, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll get it done, no problem,'” Steinhauser said. “I was shocked.”

The issue lays bare the ideological split between a high-profile tier of conservative activists and more traditional Republicans seeking to safeguard heartland values.

Republicans from rural districts are worried about the dwindling of many small towns, and fearful of undermining public schools that are top employers and the social and cultural lifeblood of community life. On school choice votes, they join forces with Democrats supporting public teachers unions.

Another strong bastion against school vouchers in Texas is the large homeschooling community. Many of them are opposed to vouchers for fear of government imposing onerous requirements on homeschooling.