Sunday, November 19, 2023

Angie Chen Button and Vouchers

Source: Texas Monthly

This week, the Texas House voted in favor of an amendment stripping school vouchers from a school funding bill. You can read elsewhere how significant this vote is (in the short run, very; in the long run, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), but here I want to report on how my Texas representative, Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson) voted.

Of course, she voted for vouchers. She always talks a good game when running for re-election. Her mailers mention how important public education is for her. Her campaign website has a section under "Issues" titled, "STANDING WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS." She occasionally meets with Richardson ISD leaders for photo ops. After one of those as recently as September, she posted on Facebook the photo below, thanking RISD leaders "for taking the time to share RISD's successes, struggles, and thoughts on how the state can best help overcome challenges."


But when the time comes to vote on the House floor, she votes to support school vouchers. Vouchers would divert taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools. Her vote this week could be headlined: "Angie Chen Button to RISD: Drop dead." Why does she seem to say one thing and do another?

Angie Chen Button's family were refugees from Communist China. That made a deep and lasting impact. She never fails to mention that part of her personal biography. Playing armchair psychologist, I see her as a survivor, first, last, and always. She does what's needed to survive. Step one in surviving in Republican politics today is avoiding drawing a primary challenger from her right. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to recruit primary challengers against GOP legislators who don't support his all-important voucher plan. Whether or not Button herself truly believes in vouchers, it's not in her political self-interest to fight an existential threat like that from the most powerful politician in Texas. And so she didn't. That doesn't let her off the hook for voting against her constituents' interests, but it might explain why she voted that way.

It ought to be noted that "Texas Monthly" put her on its 2023 list of "Best and Worst Legislators" as one of the ten "Best". I don't put her there myself. She represents a purple district, still red but trending blue over several election cycles. So, as a general rule, she votes red, with just enough blue talk to draw votes from both sides to keep getting re-elected. That may be savvy, but her vote for vouchers this term could test that political strategy in 2024. Or not. Voters have a reputation for not paying attention and even when they do, having short memories.

For the record, here is what "Texas Monthly" had to say about Angie Chen Button's performance in the 2023 legislative session.

Rep. Angie Chen Button

The sneakers that Representative Button wears on the House floor aren’t an overt political statement, but they say a lot about her approach. She’s more likely to be seen hustling from member to member to discuss bills than making grandiloquent speeches. And when she does step up to the lectern, colleagues listen. They listened when she spoke in favor of the Lone Star Workforce of the Future Fund, which would provide skills training for folks without a college degree.

They listened when she was a voice of reason amid a rash of Republican- sponsored bills that targeted individuals and entities from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Senator Lois Kolkhorst, the right-wing Republican from Brenham, introduced a bill that would prohibit Texas residents from those four countries—presumably even dual citizens and other legal residents—from purchasing property in the state. Button, who is Taiwanese American, countered with a bill that would prohibit any foreign government entity from buying Texas agricultural land but didn’t target specific nationalities. “I am well familiar with what happened during World War II to Japanese Americans,” Button said. “This bill eliminates the repetition of that threat without negatively marking loyal Americans of any ethnic background.” Thanks to her passion as well as statewide protests, Button’s proposal to exempt lawful permanent residents eventually made its way into Kolkhorst’s more draconian legislation. (The Kolkhorst bill mercifully failed in the House.)

While the politics of the Lege can resemble schoolyard antics, Button plays well with others. Consider the competing Republican and Democratic proposals to eliminate the “tampon tax,” which would exempt menstrual products as well as diapers and other baby products from the state sales tax. Button, who was tapped as sponsor for the Republican bill, nevertheless championed the Democratic one, when Dade Phelan made it a priority. In the end, the Republican version with Democratic amendments passed. It was a win for Button and for Texas.

Source: Texas Monthly.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

Headline from DMN: "Texas Gov. Greg Abbott endorses House GOP members who backed school vouchers. Abbott threw his support behind 58 GOP House members who voted against an anti-ESA amendment on Friday that removed voucher-like programs."
That's the payoff for Angie Chen Button's vote against public schools.