Editor’s Introduction: On Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, the Texas House voted to remove private school funding vouchers from the public education funding bill known as House Bill 1 against the wishes of the majority in the Texas Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott. The House voted 84-63 in favor of the amendment introduced by John Raney of College Station that removed the vouchers provision. Digging further, this means there were 21 Republicans and 63 Democrats in the House of 150 representatives (though one seat is currently vacant) who voted against vouchers.
State Rep. Drew Darby, who represents San Angelo and Big Spring in HD 72, was among those Republican representatives who voted against the implementation of school vouchers.
This is a very important issue because it has many implications for funding for public school districts from now and into the future years as well as how our government in Texas will live up to the Texas Constitution, Article 7, Section 1, that reads:
- A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.
Here are Darby’s own words as to why he voted against vouchers:
Since you elected me as your state representative, I have sworn a duty to the Constitution and House District 72 to protect public education, the separation of public and private institutions, and the millions of rural West Texas students, parents, and educators who want our communities to succeed. Today, I continue to uphold those same principles by voting to separate the discussion on Education Savings Accounts or vouchers from that of funding our public education system.
The structure proposed in House Bill 1 would have allowed a private institution to discriminate against students with special needs; reject eligible students based on their economic status, race, or religion; and balloon to a $2 billion expense to taxpayers in just two years. In states that have passed a voucher, almost 75% go to those already in private schools, leaving our rural communities to foot the bill.
The voucher system is another attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul, and, to paraphrase from our history; I will not let out-of-state special interests crucify our rural communities on their Cross of Gold. Taxpayers have already sent millions of dollars to Austin, and this is another attempt to make a withdrawal from the West Texas ATM to bankroll a voucher program. This is nothing more than big government creating an entitlement program and inserting itself into the affairs of private schools.
In the coming weeks and months, various special interest groups and donors, some of whom you may believe you can trust, will flood your mailboxes and airwaves, attempting to argue that I do not support parental rights or school choice. The reality could not be further from the truth. I proudly support our private, public, charter, and homeschool options across West Texas and the Concho Valley. We are truly blessed to have tremendous educational opportunities, which parents already exercise their ability to choose from. Thousands of parents have already decided to send their kids to various schools in our communities, the schools that best suit their needs. I oppose, and have always fought, the taking of taxpayer dollars to be funneled toward institutions with no accountability, no requirement to accept all students, and no requirement to provide for our special education students.
Let me be clear: our teachers need raises, and our schools need more funding. I voted for both of those during the regular session. Now, they are being held hostage in an attempt to force through an unproven voucher program.
Throughout my tenure, my opposition to these programs has been a consistent effort to support a free public education system and uphold the values enshrined in the Texas Constitution. I have become a thorn in the side of the wealthy special interest groups, and I expect a solid attempt from them to install a puppet wholly beholden to the rich and out-of-touch with the needs of our rural communities.
I believe West Texas and the Concho Valley are worth more than 30 pieces of silver.
I am proud to advocate for our rural communities consistently and to have never switched my position or sold out our communities to gain votes, money, or win elected office. I shall happily take the fight to any Judas lurking in our communities and defend my record for as long as it takes against out-of-state interests seeking to buy my vote and distort my record.
I stand with students, parents, and teachers, and I stand against any attempts to rob our communities of our local schools and values.