Feb 17, 2023 - News

Gov. Abbott makes "education freedom" a priority

Photo illustration of Texas Governor Greg Abbott with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios; Photo: Brandon Bell /Getty Images

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday evening outlined seven priorities for the Texas Legislature — an agenda focused on school vouchers, property tax relief, ending COVID-19 restrictions and other red meat items.

Why it matters: The governor designated the issues as emergency items, allowing lawmakers to fast-track bills addressing the priorities during the 140-day legislative session.

The big picture: Abbott narrowed in on schools, which have become ground zero in the culture wars.

  • The governor said lawmakers should use state-funded education savings accounts to create a voucher system, which would allow parents to use public money for private school tuition, in the name of "education freedom."
  • He added that under the program, "all public schools will be fully funded for every student."

What they're saying: "Let’s be clear: Schools are for education, not indoctrination," Abbott said. "Schools should not push woke agendas. Period."

The other side: The Texas Democratic Party released a video in response to Abbott's speech, saying a voucher program would "defund public education and [send] our tax dollars to wealthy, privately owned schools."

Between the lines: The speech is typically given before a joint legislative session, but Abbott opted for a private venue away from the Capitol and media, as he did two years ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Speaking to a crowd of supporters at manufacturing facility Noveon Magnetics Corp. in San Marcos, the governor touted Texas' economy and business-friendly policies.
  • Guests invited to Abbott's speech were previously told they had to sign a nondisclosure agreement — a move that was later rescinded — and leave their cellphones outside of the venue, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.
  • The speech’s priorities also suggest the outline of what an Abbott presidential campaign might look like, although the governor has not indicated that he will run.

Abbott named six other emergency items:

The bottom line: Abbott's emergency items set the stage for the Legislature to move Texas further to the right.

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