Abby Rapoport

Abby Rapoport is a freelance journalist, and former staff writer at The American Prospect. She was previously a political reporter for the Texas Observer

Recent Articles

High Enrollment, Low Standards

The bad, the ugly, and Texas pre-K

For a state with an infamously threadbare social safety net, Texas is surprisingly good at getting kids into prekindergarten. With more than 227,000 children enrolled, Texas has the largest publicly funded pre-K system in the country. Families qualify if they’re economically disadvantaged or if a parent is in the military; children who have been in foster care, do not speak English, or are homeless are eligible as well. Any district with 15 eligible students must have a program. With 51 percent of four-year-olds covered, Texas appears to be doing well when it comes to providing pre-K. That is, until you consider what these programs look like. By almost every measure, Texas has one of the lowest-quality pre-K programs in the country. The state offers funding for only three hours a day; it did away with the funding for full-day programs. In addition, Texas places no limits on class size for pre-kindergarteners. (By comparison, Head Start requires a teacher and an aide per 15 three...

Want to Rock the Vote? Fill the Election Assistance Commission.

AP Images/The Roanoke Times/Joel Hawksley
Just days after the 2013 elections, former Congresswoman Mary Bono and I were on MSNBC discussing voter-ID laws. A moderate Republican, Bono tried hard to shift the focus to a universally hated aspect of American elections—the lines. “There should be no reason there should be long lines, ever,” she said. “Why [can’t they] orchestrate and engineer a solution that you get to the polls, and there’s 15 minutes, guaranteed in and out, and you vote?” It’s a good question. Even if we forget about the disturbing rash of voting restrictions—the ID laws, the cutbacks to early voting, the efforts to make it harder to register—a basic problem remains: We don’t invest enough in our elections. Across the country, machines are old and breaking down, and we’re failing to use new technology that could clean up our voter rolls and make it easier to predict—and thus prevent—those long lines. The odds of Congress...

The Year in Preview: Post-Preclearance Voter Protection

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Lots of things happened in 2013. President Obama was sworn in for a second term. We got a new pope and a new royal baby. Two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon and scared a nation. The Supreme Court stripped power from the Defense of Marriage Act and the Voting Rights Act. But these are all stories we've heard before, and if you haven't, you certainly will in the millions of "Year in Review" pieces set to be posted between now and New Year's. Over the next two weeks, our writers will instead preview the year ahead on their beats, letting you know far in advance what the next big story about the Supreme Court—or the environmental movement, immigration reform, reproductive rights, you get the picture—will be. You're welcome in advance for not making you read a dozen more retrospectives on Ted Cruz and Twerking and fiscal cliffs and shutdowns and selfies. Below, we tackle voting rights. AP Photo/Tony Dejak Anyone concerned about voting rights will remember 2013 as the year...

Fifty Shades of Purple

AP Images/The Gazette/Mark Bugnaski
The second week in October, while Tea Partiers in Congress were tanking the GOP’s approval numbers with a government shutdown, the Republican National Committee traveled to Los Angeles to make an announcement: The party was investing $10 million to woo Latino voters in California and 16 other states. This might seem newsworthy, considering that Republicans spent much of the 2012 campaign repelling Latinos. But the event received little attention, though the Los Angeles Times did note that it featured “roast beef and cheese enchiladas.” (Ick.) The notion of Republicans competing for Latino votes in California seems ridiculous; ever since Governor Pete Wilson led an effort in 1994 to keep undocumented immigrants from accessing state services, Latinos have viewed the party as toxic. With Republicans in Washington blocking immigration reform and Medicaid expansion, the divide between Republicans and Latinos has only grown. It will take more than $10 million to bridge it...

How Virginia Ended Up with a Stinker of a Governor's Race

AP Images/Steve Helber
AP Images/Steve Helber Ken Cuccinelli wasn’t even supposed to be running. Among Virginia Republicans, everyone knew the order of succession—after Governor Bob McDonnell wrapped up his term in office, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling was supposed to be next up. That was the bargain the two men struck in 2009 to avoid a messy primary battle. But no one had consulted Cuccinelli, the attorney general and the state’s social conservative darling, and he wasn’t content to wait his turn. In December 2011, Cuccinelli, the man who made his name fighting against abortion and gay rights, announced his candidacy. It looked like a smart move. Cuccinelli had national ambitions; already, some saw him as a contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, following in the footsteps of Rick Santorum and other far-right figures. But first he needed a higher-visibility role—and he needed to prove that he could make his message attractive to a wider audience. His vehement...