Abbott Promotes Pro-Voucher Major Donor

Abbott Promotes Pro-Voucher Major Donor
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

With the runoff elections in Texas over, Greg Abbott has been touting school vouchers as a major priority for the state. Earlier this year, the pro-voucher agenda received a boost after several rural Republicans lost to school choice candidates. Before that Abbott had called four special elections to try and pass a pro-voucher bill. 

Now, Republicans in Texas are on the cusp of finally reaching a pro-voucher consensus. With the runoff elections in the rearview mirror, Abbott has moved to continue promoting major voucher allies, including some big-pocketed donors of his own.

Abbott has a history of appointing fierce voucher backers to several state education agencies. That trend continued in May when Abbott appointed Stacy Hock as the Vice Chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He had previously named Hock to the Board in July 2023.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board was established in 1965 under then-Governor John Connally. The Board was created to “represent the highest authority in the state regarding matters of public higher education.” Members of the Board for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board are all appointed by the governor. 

Just two months after her appointment to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Hock made a $10,000 donation to Texans for Greg Abbott in September 2023. In 2022 she also made a $50,000 donation to Greg Abbott, who was running for re-election, per federal disclosure forms.  

Hock is also a major supporter of candidates and PACs that support charter schools. In 2022, according to FEC disclosures, Hock donated $225,000 to Texas Federation of Children and $10,000 to Charter Schools Now PAC.

Since 2015, Hock has served as a board member for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a prolific conservative think tank in Texas. They played a major role in ousting several Republicans who were opposed to passing a pro-voucher bill. Before the runoff election, Abbott attended their policy summit and said the state was two votes away from getting a voucher bill. “We would not be on the threshold of success if it were not for TPPF,” he said at the summit.

ProPublica recently detailed the years-long efforts of groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation to enact pro-voucher legislation. Messaging around the need for vouchers after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted from groups like TPPF to opposite critical race theory, LGBTQ+ curriculum or books, and most recently DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). 

After Senate Bill 17 passed in Texas, TPPF celebrated what they deemed as the “strongest anti-DEI bill” in the country. “SB 17 will end Texas taxpayer support of DEI, a political ideology rooted in the premise that white supremacy is the primary force driving every aspect of university and American life,” they said in a statement.

SB 17 has forced public universities in Texas to shutter their diversity, equity, and inclusion offices. It also bans any required diversity trainings and prevents hiring fields from requesting diversity statements or other forms pertaining to diversity. Hundreds of positions and programs have been eliminated on Texas college campuses as a result. SB 17 also stipulates that public universities and colleges in Texas must comply with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to ensure they are following the law before they can use any state money.

Hock serves alongside eight other members on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, including Javaid Anwar, another major Abbott donor who is the Secretary. Anwar, the owner and president of Midland Energy, Inc., Petroplex Energy, Inc., and the Western T. Corporation, was first appointment to the Board in 2015, and with a recent re-appointment will serve until 2027. 

According to federal disclosure forms, from 2013 to 2023, Abbott accepted 30 in-kind donations from Anwar for aircraft and plane expenses that totaled over $340,000. He was also highlighted in The Texas Tribune in 2022 as one of 39 donors who had given Abbott over $1 million.