Rep. Hugh Shine’s Media Profile Expanded with School Choice Opposition
Texas Rep. Hugh Shine’s school choice opposition is expanding his media profile both as a Republican routinely siding with Democrats and as a representative seemingly responsive more to public education institutions than to his Bell County electorate.
As we currently move through a third legislative Special Session designated to empower parents by addressing education reforms including school choice, legislators like Shine will be watched.
During the Texas Legislature’s recent regular session, Shine (R-HD 55) voted to “ban state dollars from funding vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and other school choice programs.”
The Center Square describes the action:
They passed an amendment doing so, one of 350 filed and voted on April 6.
After the Texas Senate passed a parental rights and school choice bill, including a state-funded ESA program, the House passed the budget amendment, ensuring no state funds would be used to fund it or any similar programs.
Amendment 45, filed by state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, which had six cosponsors, including four Republicans, states, “Money appropriated by this Act may not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, including an education savings account, tax credit scholarship program, or a grant or other similar program through which a child may use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education.”
The article terms Shine as one of 24 who “voted with Democrats against funding ESAs” and additionally notes Bell County’s other state representative, Brad Buckley (R-HD 54), as voting “present.”
What do voters think?
The 2022 Republican Primary ballot contained a proposition asking voters if “Texas parents and guardians should have the right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.” Statewide, 87.78 percent voted “yes.” In Bell County, that number rose to 89 percent.
And this sentiment is not new. The 2012 Republican Primary ballot similarly featured a proposition that “allowed parents the freedom to choose their child’s school.” Statewide, 84.6 percent voted in favor of the proposition. In Bell County, that number was 84.85 percent.
Polling information is tricky based on who is asking the questions, who is being asked and how those questions are asked. That said, even The Texas Tribune reports how a University of Texas at Austin survey found a plurality of voters support some version of school choice while a Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and WFAA poll “shows a majority of Texans want to expand school choice and allow parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private school.”
Siding against parental rights
In today’s political media landscape, it could be said that you’ve “arrived” when Libs of TikTok find your record of interest.
The article details sexually explicit books found in the public school libraries of Shine’s district. Indeed those books exist as previously detailed in a three-part series (Bell County: What’s in Your Public School Library? Part One, Part Two and Part Three) that included an audit of seven Bell County school districts, at least four of which are in some portion of HD 55.
Think this issue isn’t a catalyst for parents wanting education options?
Libs of TikTok reveal campaign donations from the Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee, an organization that “advocates for government-run schooling which is as we all know, indoctrinates kids with CRT, gender ideology and has insane failure rates.”
And for those of us who have followed the school choice issue over many legislative sessions, Butt’s advocacy for government schools over any parental rights movement is well known.
Same can be said for Texas State Teachers Association, another Shine contributor aptly described as “a branch of the super woke NEA” and known here in Texas for its financial contributions to seemingly influenceable House Republicans.
The article notes that while voting against enhanced educational opportunities for his constituents, Shine’s own daughter attended a local private school.
Why is Representative Shine so against school choice? Could it be the donations? The endorsements? The feeling of power to make decisions and control others? There isn’t a sensible reason to decline parents’ choice. He is just another state representative who adheres to the rules for thee, not me stigma plaguing this country.
On the radio
Shine’s name also recently came up in an interview with Cardle & Woolley on Austin’s Talk Radio 1370 AM. In discussing the Special Session, Mandy Drogin, an education advocate with Texas Public Policy Foundation, and host Lynn Woolley discussed the influence that school superintendents seem to exercise over many state representatives.
Do these elected officials defer to unelected educrats as a large local employer? Or is it more likely a case of a taxpayer-funded institutionalists versus the public?
NOTE: Drogin/Woolley exchange starts 6:15.
The ripple effect
The regular Legislative session was contentious in that once again, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives failed to pass Republican priorities rendering much of the Senate’s work moot. Speaker Dade Phelan was seen as the major roadblock and that situation remains unresolved for the Special.
The session was additionally complicated when a last-minute, out-of-the-blue impeachment action was taken against Attorney General Ken Paxton. After a hastily convened House proceeding, 60 out of 85 Republicans joined Democrats to vote for Paxton’s impeachment triggering the activity to move to the Texas Senate for a trial. Paxton was ultimately acquitted of all charges.
Interestingly, Paxton has announced he will endorse select challengers to House Republicans having voted for impeachment. Shine was one of those Republicans.
With this backdrop, votes for numerous Special Session bills will also impact the upcoming March 2024 primary. Who runs and who draws challengers are still to be determined and any education votes will be potential triggers for action.
In Primary threats loom over House Republicans as lawmakers again consider school vouchers, The Texas Tribune is already wargaming how things may play out.
The easy way or the hard way.
That’s how Gov. Greg Abbott has described the choice for state lawmakers in his own party as they enter a third special session focused on his yearlong crusade for “school choice.” They could pass a bill that satisfies him and allows state funds to be used for private school options — the easy way — or they could keep gridlocking and face his wrath in the Republican primary — the hard way.
Abbott’s framing has set a stark political overtone for the special session, which begins Monday — about a month before candidate filing opens for the March primary.
Over the years, Shine has consistently opposed school choice efforts. Any change now will be an obvious political calculation, a forced appeasement of an electorate in an attempt to maintain a seat.
And once again, Shine gets a mention with regard to the March primary:
Other Republicans are waiting to see how the special session goes. Among them is Hillary Hickland, an activist mom of four from Belton who is considering a run against Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Belton. She took her three school-aged children out of public schools in recent years and said she wants families who are not as privileged as hers to have the same opportunity.
The Tribune notes how Shine was “among the 24 House Republicans who voted for the anti-voucher budget amendment, despite appearing with Abbott at a school choice event in his district weeks earlier.” Shine also reportedly did not respond to a request for comment.
Regarding the future, Hickland tells The Tribune, “I’m not quite there yet [on running], but his vote is something I’m paying close attention to.”
She won’t be alone in paying close attention.
Lou Ann Anderson is a writer, former radio producer and current podcaster at Political Pursuits. Her tenure as Watchdog Wire–Texas editor involved covering state news and coordinating the site’s citizen journalist network. As a past Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity–Texas, Lou Ann wrote and spoke on a variety of issues including the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended heirs or beneficiaries. She holds a degree from the University of North Texas in Denton.