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Why Did Phelan Add Vouchers To His Agenda? 

In the lead-up to his primary runoff election, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has singled out the study of voucher programs as a key priority for lawmakers. 

Amidst preparations for the upcoming legislative session, Phelan included Education Savings Accounts (vouchers) among the charges for the Public Education Committee. Under the heading of “Educational Opportunity,” he told the committee to “Evaluate the use of education savings accounts in other states and make recommendations for a Texas program, including suggestions on eligibility and prioritization of applicants.”

Phelan’s directives, released in his Interim Charges, offer a glimpse into the potential agenda for the 89th Legislature, which is scheduled to convene on January 14, 2025.

They also come after a tumultuous year at the capitol, marked by tensions within his own party over issues such as impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Ken Paxton and the rejection of school voucher proposals. Phelan’s decision to allow Democrats to lead House committees has also drawn criticism from some quarters of the Republican Party.

Phelan’s call for an examination of education savings accounts, commonly known as vouchers, comes amidst ongoing debates over the future of education funding in Texas. The controversial programs, which provide public funds for private school tuition, have divided lawmakers along partisan lines, with rural Republicans joining House Democrats in blocking a voucher proposal last November.

According to a source who spoke to RA News, there are several potential reasons behind Speaker Phelan’s decision to prioritize the study of private school voucher programs.

Firstly, with his primary runoff election looming, Phelan may be seeking to hedge his bets with voters by demonstrating an openness to exploring various education policy options, including vouchers. Additionally, there may be political considerations at play, such as a desire to avoid potential backlash from Gov. Greg Abbott or other influential figures within the party. 

Phelan’s decision could also be influenced by donor interests or internal dynamics within his team, with the possibility that a staffer advocating for vouchers played a role in shaping this directive. 

Amidst a challenging political landscape and a contentious runoff against GOP challenger David Covey, Phelan faces pressure to not only address vouchers, but also housing affordability, access to prenatal care, workforce development, and border security.

Written by RA News staff.


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