EducationStatewide NewsTaxes & SpendingRural, Minority Texans Favor School Choice According to University of Houston Poll

More than six out of 10 Texans polled support vouchers for low-income families with the strongest support coming from black and Latino respondents.
January 30, 2023
A new poll from the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs indicates strong support for school choice in the Lone Star State, even among minorities and rural communities with fewer options.

Conducted in January 2023, the survey asked 1,200 respondents from across the state about taxpayer-funded vouchers that could be used to attend private or religious schools and tax credits for individuals and corporate donations that pay for private school scholarships.

According to results released Monday, 61 percent of Texans support educational vouchers for low-income families and 53 percent support vouchers for all families regardless of income.

Among black respondents, 78 percent said they support vouchers for low-income families and 65 percent support vouchers for all. Support was high among Latinos as well, with 64 percent in favor of vouchers for low-income parents and 54 percent in favor of vouchers for all parents.

Both minority groups also supported tax credits for school choice scholarships for low-income families with 79 percent of black and 63 percent of Latino respondents favoring the proposal.

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Although in previous years representatives from rural communities have expressed opposition to legislation allowing parents to use tax dollars for the school of their choice, the survey found 59 percent of respondents in rural counties favored vouchers and 62 percent for all families regardless of income.

When parsed by party affiliation, the poll found 57 percent of all Democrats, 78 percent of black Democrats, and 57 percent of Latino Democrats supported vouchers for low-income families. Only white Democrats expressed opposition.

In a 115-29 bipartisan vote, Texas House members voted to ban school vouchers in 2021, but this year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has stated that he and Gov. Greg Abbott are “all in” on school choice for the 2023 Legislative Session.

Patrick reiterated his support for school choice programs during a recent interview with The Texan, and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) expressed support for educational choice within his proposed Texas Parental Bill of Rights.

In response to the poll, American Federation of Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis told The Texan that “a school choice revolution has ignited” and lambasted white Democrats for continued opposition.

“What a shame,” said DeAngelis. “The group that preaches the loudest about ‘equity’ fights the hardest to trap poor kids in failing government schools. It’s time to let these families free. It’s time for Texas to empower all families to choose the education providers that best meet their needs. It’s time for Texas to fund students, not systems.”

Opponents of school choice argue that these programs take money away from traditional public schools, while DeAngelis and proponents such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation point to studies in other states showing improvement in student achievement in existing district schools due to competition.

Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) is among several state lawmakers who have already filed school choice legislation this year. Middleton’s Senate Bill (SB) 176 would create an Educational Savings Account with both public and private funding for parents to use on approved educational expenses.

In recent years, some parents have expressed frustration with highly politicized content in public school curricula and materials, controversial sexual education programs, and COVID-19 pandemic policies that included school closures and prolonged masking of children. 2021 saw an increase in families opting out of traditional public schools, and homeschooling rose by 40 percent.

The University of Houston poll also questioned respondents about traditional public schools and found that fewer than half of respondents saw their local Independent School District as “very important” to the local community’s sense of togetherness, economic well-being, and ability to attract and retain residents. Only in rural counties did a majority — 52 percent — believe the ISD was very important to the local community’s identity.

Despite lingering opposition from some lawmakers, DeAngelis is optimistic that Texas will enact a school choice program this session and referred to Middleton’s SB 176.

“These results are encouraging given that the poll asked about ‘vouchers.’ Texas Republicans are currently pushing for a related but different policy – education savings accounts – which generally poll even better than ‘vouchers,’” said DeAngelis.

“Education freedom will come to Texas.”

A copy of the University of Houston poll can be found below.


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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.