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Here’s why rural Republicans are finally beginning to shift and support school choice

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Rural Republican lawmakers are beginning to shift on school choice after historically blocking efforts.

The Wyoming legislature earlier this month passed a school choice bill after past failed attempts to make that happen in the Cowboy State.

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Lawmakers hope to provide education saving accounts for all K-12 students to use taxpayer dollars to have alternatives to local public schools such as charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

The bill comes after two bills were introduced and swatted down during the 2023 legislative session. Republican Governor Mark Gordon vetoed a different charter school bill that passed earlier this year.

The Wyoming Education Association expressed hope that Gordon would strike this bill down.

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The state capitol in Cheyenne, Wyoming on October 21, 2023.  (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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“Whether or not he does, it’s striking that the legislature in one of the most rural states in America passed a robust school choice bill,” American Federation For Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“Rural red-state Republicans, backed by teachers unions, have long opposed school choice. They say their constituents don’t want it because there aren’t many private schools in their districts,” he said.

DeAngelis, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, explained further, “Yet the nine most rural states in the country (as measured by population share) now have some form of private school choice.”

He continued, “Maine and Vermont have the oldest private-school voucher programs in the U.S., both enacted in the late 19th century for students who live in rural districts without public schools. Both programs allow state funding to follow the child to the public or private school his family chooses.”

“The school choice stampede through rural states and the political success of education freedom supporters in rural districts should put to bed the myth that rural voters don’t want school choice once and for all,” DeAngelis told Fox News Digital.

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Wyoming’s advancement toward a universal school choice bill is part of a trend of red states passing the measure. Nine states passed universal school choice bills last year and Alabama made the move last week.

As Wyoming seeks to be the eleventh state to pass universal school choice, Texas struggled to join the phenomenon due to rural GOP lawmakers, some who were backed by the teachers’ unions. 

Teachers unions traditionally reject school choice measures since they claim it debilitates public school funding and resources as taxpayer funding is siphoned off due to the existence of other education alternatives.

Per the Texas Tribune, the state senate tried different ways to pass an education savings account program, but Democrats and rural Republicans blocked their efforts.

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State Rep. Travis Clardy, in particular, voted against school choice and told media outlets that he is not convinced vouchers are a good move for public schools in rural areas where there are not many options like there are in suburban and urban communities.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Gov. Greg Abbott on October 31st, 2023 issued a proclamation stating that universal school choice” would include additional school finance, such as teacher pay raises, school safety, and special education” to appease concerns over the impact of public schools. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Clardy is one of the 24 GOP lawmakers who voted against ESAs and has been at odds with Abbott over school choice. 

Clardy received a donation of $250 from the Texas AFT in 2020. Clardy, a 12-year incumbent, was defeated in this month’s primary by Joanne Shofner in House District 12.

Jason Bedrick, education policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital that rural voters are “waking up to the fact that there are issues in their schools too, and there are more options in rural areas than most people think.” 

“As we note in the report, opponents of school choice often say that 1) there are no options besides the public schools in rural areas, and 2) so many kids would leave for these options that the public schools in rural areas would collapse. Those statements cannot both be true simultaneously, but they can both be false. And, indeed, they are false.”

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He explained further, “As we document, there are more options in rural areas than most people realize, and with school choice policies in place, there is growth in the private options in rural areas. Additionally, far from destroying rural public schools, the evidence suggests that more choice and competition improves the quality of the public school system in rural areas, just as it does in urban and suburban areas.”

According to a poll from the University of Houston, it reported that 60% of Republican primary voters would be less likely to vote for an incumbent Texas House representative who opposed school choice measures in 2023.

The report stated, “The negative impact on the vote intention for a House incumbent who voted against school choice/vouchers does not vary by region, with 63% of GOP primary voters in urban and suburban counties less likely to vote for the incumbent compared to 58% in rural and semi-rural counties.”

Nine Republican incumbents lost their elections and eight more were pushed into runoffs in the primary last week. Considering the defeat of certain incumbents, the primary election favored Republican candidates who pushed for school choice.

A shift in the Texas legislature could enshrine school choice efforts in the Lone Star State, as GOP primary results indicate that voters favor school choice legislation.

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DeAngelis added that the primary results indicate the “biggest political shift towards school choice in Texas history.”

“The Texas election is already sending shockwaves all across the country: rural voters want school choice,” DeAngelis said to Fox News Digital. “These legislators also knew about the non-binding ballot proposition from 2022 finding that 88% of Texas Republican primary voters supported school choice, but they ignored the will of their constituents. In fact, Representative Glenn Rogers said that the Republican primary ballot proposition result was ‘not valid data’ the same day he voted against school choice last November. He ended up losing by 27 points to Mike Olcott on election night.”

Kim Reynolds speaks

 Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an unprecedented school choice bill called the Students First Act. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Furthermore, the primary results came after a recent report showing donations from teachers’ unions supporting Republicans who previously rejected school choice measures.

Although the teachers’ unions publicly endorse Democrats, they have shown support for Republicans with a track record of voting against school choice measures.

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Campaign finance reports posted by Corey DeAngelis on X show that the Texas AFT donated $25,000 to the PAC “Defend Rural Texas PAC.”

DeAngelis told Fox News Digital last year that Texas state lawmakers could face consequences for choosing not to support school choice by being ousted in the next primary election cycle. He foresaw a parallel between Texas and what occurred in Iowa when Gov. Kim Reynolds sought to pass universal school choice legislation.

Reynolds endorsed nine candidates with a pro-parent platform in primary elections, ousting the incumbent GOP candidates who did not support that platform.

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Los Angeles, Ca

Suspect in deadly stabbing of woman on Metro train faces life in prison

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Suspect in deadly stabbing of woman on Metro train faces life in prison

The homeless man accused of fatally stabbing a 67-year-old woman in the neck on a Los Angeles Metro train is facing the potential of life in prison after being formally charged Wednesday by the district attorney’s office.  

The unprovoked attack occurred in the early morning hours of April 22 as the victim, identified by family as Mirna Soza, was on a subway train from North Hollywood headed toward Union Station. 

After being stabbed in the throat with two small kitchen knives, the victim got off the train at the Universal City B Line Station while bleeding profusely, the Los Angeles Police Department stated following the incident Monday. 

The 67-year-old was assisted by security personnel before being rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.  

Mirna Soza is seen in an image provided by a family member.

Soza, who worked as a security guard, was on her way home from an overnight shift when she was attacked. She is survived by her three children and seven grandchildren.

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The suspect in the attack, identified by police as Elliot Tramel Nowden, was arrested on suspicion of murder and was being held on $2 million bail, authorities said.  

Investigators said Nowden exited the subway at the same station as Soza and fled before being caught a short time later near Ventura Boulevard and Vineland Avenue. 

Nowden, who is 45 years old and described by police as a transient, has been in trouble for harassing and attacking Metro passengers in the past. 

The Los Angeles Police Department arrested 45-year-old Elliot Tramel Nowden for the random stabbing and murder of a woman on a Metro B Line train approaching the Universal City stop. The incident occurred on April 22, 2024. (KTLA)

In July 2019, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon while on probation for attacking another passenger earlier that year, police said Tuesday. 

Nowden was sentenced in December 2019 to four years in state prison but continued to frequent Metro stations after his release. 

He was in custody several times this year, including in February when he was arrested for an assault at the same Red Line station, police said. 

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Authorities say Nowden and the victim did not know each other and believe there are other victims who have been assaulted. 

“This tragic and senseless act of violence on an innocent Metro passenger has shaken our community as thousands take the Metro daily as a form of transportation,” L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said in a news release. “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time. These acts of violence have no place in our society and our office will continue to work to ensure that justice is served to those who commit these egregious crimes.” 

The 45-year-old was charged with one count of murder and one count of first-degree robbery of a transit passenger.  

“It also is alleged the crime was committed as a robbery-murder special circumstance, that the defendant personally used a deadly weapon, and that the victim was vulnerable during the commission of the crime,” the release noted.  

At his arraignment on Wednesday, prosecutors recommended that Nowden be held without bail.

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If convicted as charged, he faces life in prison without parole.  

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Southwest

Texas man charged with murder after woman's body found in closet

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A Texas man was charged with murder after a woman he was in a relationship was found dead, wrapped in bedding and stuffed in his closet, according to court documents.

FOX 4 in Dallas reported that 34-year-old Omar Lucio was arrested on April 15 and charged in the murder of 27-year-old Corinna Johnson.

Leading up to the arrest, the Garland Police Department advised the Dallas Police Department that it received a 911 call from a woman who said another woman had been beaten to death and was inside an apartment on W. Wheatland Road.

When officers arrived at the apartment, Lucio was inside and refused to exit, though after about an hour, he complied and was placed under arrest.

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Omar Lucio was charged with murder after Corinna Johnson’s body was found in his closet. The body was wrapped in bedding. (Dallas County Jail)

The responding officers then entered the apartment and followed a trail of blood that reportedly went from the front door to the bathroom, then into a bedroom closet, according to court documents obtained by the station.

Inside the closet, police found Johnson’s body wrapped in Lucio’s bedding.

A further investigation led police to Lucio’s vehicle in the parking lot, where bloody clothes were located inside.

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Corinna Johnson smiling in a selfie

Corrina Johnson’s body was found wrapped in bedding and inside a closet at Omar Lucio’s apartment, according to Dallas Police. (Corinna Johnson’s Family via FOX 4 Dallas)

The woman who reported the body told investigators she went to Lucio’s apartment after he called her asking for her help.

Lucio reportedly told the woman he and Johnson were drinking when they got kicked out of a bar because of Johnson, the court affidavit notes. Lucio then allegedly said he “knocked some sense” into Johnson, making her unresponsive.

The caller told investigators she witnessed Johnson’s body on the floor of the bathroom with a bruised and bloody face. She also told police the woman appeared to be dead. It was not until the next day that the woman called and reported the body to the police.

Investigators spoke with Lucio, and he allegedly admitted that he “snapped” and beat Johnson with his bare hands while they were inside the car.

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Detectives noted in the affidavit that Lucio’s hands appeared injured, and he had blood under his fingernails and on his left shoe.

Police also noted that Lucio did not tell investigators how Johnson ended up in the closet, wrapped in his bedding.

FOX 4 said Johnson’s family had been urging the mother of a 7-year-old to leave Lucio.

Erica Hernandez, Johnson’s sister, told the station her sister was the “most bubbly person ever,” while the victim’s aunt, Kathy Gareau, said Johnson “always had a smile on her face.”

“She didn’t deserve what she got,” Gareau said. “Not at all.”

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Johnson and Lucio were together for six years, according to Johnson’s family, and they said they would grow concerned whenever she came home with black eyes or bruises.

Lucio remains in custody at the Dallas County Jail on charges of murder as well as street racing and being involved in a collision causing bodily injury.

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Los Angeles, Ca

Pro-Palestinian protesters, police scuffle on USC campus

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Pro-Palestinian protesters, police scuffle on USC campus

Scuffling broke out between police and protesters at USC Wednesday morning.

The protesters, who are objecting to the ongoing war in Gaza and Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, were targeted by police who were “RAIDING ENCAMPMENTS” and “VIOLENTLY ARRESTING” them, according to activist account People City’s Council – Los Angeles.

Video shared to social media by Angie Orellana Hernandez showed at least one officer whipping out a baton after “officers put their hands on a @USC student.”

She later shared another video showing students surrounding a police vehicle so it could not leave the area with a student that the protesters believed was wrongly detained.

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The escalation comes after a slow start to the protest.

While Sky5 showed only 15-20 protesters early Wednesday morning, by midday, dozens if not hundreds of people could be spotted in the area of Alumni Park. Large amounts of shoving and pushing could be spotted.

USC Public Safety Assistant Chief David Carlisle told KTLA earlier on Wednesday that students were free to protest, but they were not allowed to camp on campus property, so officers took down tents.

Footage from just before noon showed numerous tents still erected at the site, though protesters appeared to be carrying their tents and walking in a circle in an attempt to evade the officers’ attempts.

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