By\u00a0Patrick Svitek\r\nGov.\u00a0Greg Abbott\u00a0on Monday voiced support for a school voucher plan, offering his clearest embrace in recent memory of letting parents use taxpayers dollars to send their kids to nonpublic schools.\r\n\u201cWe can fully fund public schools while also giving parents a choice about which school is right for their child,\u201d Abbott said during a campaign event in San Antonio. \u201cEmpowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student.\u201d\r\nAbbott has long been a supporter of the broad concept of \u201cschool choice,\u201d but his focus on it has ebbed and flowed throughout his governorship. His commitment to the cause was thrown into question by a\u00a0recent string of endorsements\u00a0in Texas House primary runoffs in which he backed Republicans opposed by school-choice proponents, including U.S. Sen.\u00a0Ted Cruz.\r\nCritics of vouchers say they hurt public schools, an argument that Abbott\u2019s Democratic challenger, Beto O\u2019Rourke, quickly made after the governor\u2019s remarks.\r\n\u201cAbbott is for defunding our public schools,\u201d O\u2019Rourke tweeted. \u201cI\u2019m for fully funding our kids\u2019 classrooms and fully supporting parents, teachers, and students.\u201d\r\nAbbott sought multiple times to assuage concerns about public school funding. He insisted that a voucher plan \u201cdoes not mean that public schools will not be fully funded \u2014 whether they are urban, rural, suburban.\u201d\r\n\u201cIf you like the public school your child is attending, it will still be fully funded,\u201d Abbott said.\r\nSchool-choice groups cheered Abbott\u2019s announcement that state funding should follow the student where they go. Mandy Drogin, the Texas director of the American Federation for Children, said in a statement that \u201cthanks to Greg Abbott\u2019s leadership, the educational freedom movement in Texas has been lit on fire.\u201d\r\nAbbott held the event as part of a focus on \u201cparental rights\u201d in his reelection campaign. Echoing Republicans nationwide, he has vowed to give Texas parents more say in their kids\u2019 education, including over the curriculum they are taught and the types of schools they can attend.\r\nThe Association of Texas Professional Educators said Abbott was \u201cagain attempting to capitalize on trendy political rhetoric by mislabeling vouchers as a \u2018parental right\u2019 and again ignoring the facts: Texas voters support Texas public schools.\u201d\r\n\u201cTexas voters elect lawmakers who support Texas public schools,\u201d ATPE executive director Shannon Holmes said in a statement. \u201cAnd Texas voters know the truth about Texas public schools.\u201d\r\nVouchers have long been a tough sell in the Legislature, where the idea tends to draw bipartisan opposition in the House, partly from rural Republicans concerned about the health of public schools in their districts. The House speaker, Beaumont Republican\u00a0Dade Phelan, said in a recent radio interview that he has \u201cno problem with an up-or-down vote\u201d on school choice issues but noted test votes have previously failed by wide margins.\r\n\u201cThe delta\u2019s pretty large on school choice, on getting it across the finish line,\u201d Phelan said.\r\nThis story was originally published by the Texas Tribune.