Forrest Wilder: Preaching to the Choir: Greg Abbott Tours Private Christian Schools (Exclusively) to Make the Case for Vouchers
Reporting for Texas Monthly, Forrest Wilder notices that Governor Greg Abbott appears to be pitching school choice to a very particular group, as witnessed by his speaking tour to whip up support.
But it’s impossible not to notice that Abbott has only visited expensive private Christian institutions—all Protestant—in front of friendly audiences of parents who have opted out of public education. Of the seven schools the governor has visited on his “Parent Empowerment Tour,” not a single one has been a public school or a secular private school or a religious school affiliated with Catholicism, Islam, or Judaism. Not even a Montessori. If the goal was to reassure critics that Abbott’s embrace of vouchers wasn’t a recipe for draining the public school system while subsidizing the children of wealthy Christian conservatives in private schools of their choice, well, none of those critics were around to hear it. The governor was quite literally preaching to the choir.
A recent appearance, at Brazos Christian School in Bryan, is representative. Brazos Christian is a private school serving kids from prekindergarten through high school, whose mission is “training, equipping, and educating students to impact the world for Jesus.” Tuition costs more than $12,500 a year for high-school students. Applicants for seventh through twelfth grade at Brazos Christian “must evidence a relationship with Jesus Christ” and provide a reference from a pastor to have a shot at acceptance. When Abbott showed up in early March, he spoke at a dais emblazoned with a sign reading “Parents Matter,” the kind of focus-group-tested slogan beloved by politicians and marketers. Hovering behind the governor’s head was the school’s cross-centric emblem.
Nor are these folks shy about the notion that they are not intending to serve all students.
Onstage with Abbott was the school’s headmaster, who emphasized in his speech that Brazos Christian was designed to serve only “a small subset” of the community: Christians with a Biblical world view. Also onstage with Abbott was Mandy Drogin, a school-choice advocate employed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin think tank funded by oil and gas interests and other corporations, along with wealthy ideologues, that has for decades zealously pushed various privatization efforts, including school vouchers. Drogin previously worked for American Federation for Children, a dark-money group founded by Betsy DeVos, the billionaire heiress to the Amway fortune whose longstanding hostility to public education nearly tanked her nomination to serve as Donald Trump’s secretary of education.