Despite Gov. Greg Abbott stating a deal had been reached on Education Savings Accounts, Rep. Brad Buckley, chairman of the Texas House Public Education Committee, indicated the House would not be able to move on it during this special session. Killing vouchers again.
Ever since the regular session, tensions have been high after months of intense disagreements among GOP lawmakers regarding voucher-like legislation. While the Senate is committed to passing Abbott’s golden child, the House is a graveyard for such proposals.
House Democrats and rural Republicans have historically been opposed to vouchers, arguing these will divert money from the public education system which is already severely underfunded.
From the very first day of the session, Rep. Trey Martinez made it clear House Democrats would not negotiate any proposal that lumps public school funding and school vouchers together – as suggested by Abbott.
“This caucus is very clear: no vouchers and no deals,” he said.
School advocates and superintendents have also banned together against such proposals. “We’re not interested in compromising for vouchers to gain school funding,” Whitehouse ISD Superintendent Christopher Moran said at a September news conference. “This is a hill that we’re willing to die on.”
On Wednesday, Abbott said “we are on track to ensure there will not be another special session” and referenced a “bill that will be coming out of the House later on today.”
But the House had other plans, no such bill seems likely to pass and a fourth special session could start as early as next week.
Despite Abbott’s optimism for a compromise encompassing ESAs, teacher bonuses, and increased public school funding, the rift between the chambers persisted. On Wednesday night, House Speaker Dade Phelan, told House members they might come back Monday or Tuesday to act on two border security-related bills.
Notably absent from his announcement were references to the contentious education proposals, which, despite earlier Senate approval, had run out of time within this session.
In response, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called out House Speaker Dade Phelan, saying that is a tragedy he and the Texas House “have just wasted another special session with no action on the legislative priorities of the governor, the Senate, and the majority of Texas voters.”
As of the publication of this article Gov. Abbott has remained silent on the legislative deadlock and the potential fourth special session.
The “agreement” with the House that Abbott had touted would have created “universal” education savings accounts worth $10,400 a year and increased teacher pay, school funding, and school safety funding, as well as phasing out the STAAR test that public and charter school students take. Families would have been able to use the publicly funded ESAs to pay for private school or other education-related expenses.
In past statements, Abbott pledged to call lawmakers back to Austin for another special session if an education reform bill never made it to his desk and threatened to get involved in the Republican primary elections if that failed.
With tensions high between Speaker Phelan and Lt. Gov. Patrick another special session might not be ideal.