East Texas lawmakers sound off on vote to strip education bill of voucher-like measure

East Texas lawmakers sound off on vote to strip education bill of voucher-like measure
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:36 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:39 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - State Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) is among the 84 lawmakers who voted Friday afternoon in favor of an amendment to remove a school voucher-like program from a massive education spending bill.

“We voted four times in about three minutes to say, ‘No, governor. We don’t want vouchers,” Clardy said in a Monday afternoon Zoom interview. “It really seemed a pretty blatant and clumsy attempt to either bully people to vote against their district or to bribe them to vote against their district. And that’s not the way the legislature should work. And thankfully, that’s not the way it was last Friday.”

Along with being “financially irresponsible,” Clardy said he voted the way a majority of his constituents had asked him to.

“I listen to the people I represent,” Clardy said. “I don’t just punch a button based on the majority. But I think in this instance, the policy and the politics and the people I represent absolutely aligned. We want to see money invested in our children and our public education system. We want to continue to support our strong rural schools. And we don’t have a problem out here with woke teachers teaching our kids hate America. That’s not what happens in rural East Texas.”

State Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview) said he too voted with the majority of his district and said while he does believe parents should have the ability to choose, it comes at a cost.

“What I’m asking for is answers to the main question,” Dean said. “And that’s how do we intend to pay for this type of program from a sustainability standpoint?”

State Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine) was among the 63 Republicans who voted to keep education savings accounts. It’s a measure he’s in favor of now, but hasn’t always been.

“It wasn’t until I sat on the public education committee and started to hear both the opposing arguments from the pro-public education sector and the the supporting arguments from parents and students, really last year,” Harris said. “The one thing that I heard is you can’t support both public education and education savings accounts. And I just flatly reject that argument.”

Also voting in favor of keeping the education savings accounts, State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), who joined Gov. Abbott earlier this year at Grace Community School in Tyler, where they both touted the proposal.

“If you’ve got money, you’ve got school choice. If you’re poor, you don’t have school choice,” Schaefer said in a Monday afternoon interview. “It was an opportunity for us to change that, but unfortunately we didn’t have the votes to get there.”

Both Schaefer and Harris said while Republicans don’t currently have the votes needed, they believe a voucher-like program will one day be a reality in Texas.

“Whether it’s this year or 2025, history is moving that direction,” Schaefer said. “The rest of the country is moving that direction. And families are beginning to see that there are other options available.”