As members of the Texas Legislature brace themselves for a potential third special session this October, voucher-like legislation remains a hot topic for both Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
Rumors and insider information suggest that Gov. Greg Abbott’s office continues to have a strong stance on vouchers, indicating that cutting a deal might be the only way to get public school funding for Independent School Districts.
Insider sources have confirmed that during a House Republican Caucus meeting, it was revealed that Representatives Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) and Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), are currently working on some form of deal. This development has raised eyebrows, as some members of both parties are skeptical about this unlikely collaboration between the Chairs of the House Public Education Committee and House Committee on Appropriations.
On the other hand, 22 out of “The 24” Republicans who are strongly against vouchers, remain resolute with their decision and do not wish to negotiate.
“The 24” is a coalition composed of Republican state representatives who range from rural backgrounds that on average have a total school population of 50,000 students. During the 88th Legislative regular session, Gov. Abbott listed vouchers as one of his legislative priorities, however, was unsuccessful in getting the legislation to his desk because of “The 24.”
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of the aisle, tensions are also running high. An insider source reported that during a House Democratic Caucus meeting Chair Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) bluntly informed Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) that if she intended to vote in favor of vouchers, she should consider leaving the party.
To which Rep. Gervin-Hawkins allegedly responded she did not intend to vote for vouchers.
After the publication of this article, Rep. Gervin-Hawkins reached out to RA News contesting our reporting, stating:
“A conversation such as this never took place. I am requesting that Reform Austin publish a retraction of this report, clearly stating that this reporting was unverified and that no attempt was made to contact my office for comment or clarification before publishing this article.”
However, RA News obtained this information from a consistently reliable source and we are standing by our reporting.
As the heated debate over school vouchers persists, it becomes evident that this issue will remain a central focus of Texas politics, with Gov. Abbott passionately advocating for its advancement.
During the 88th regular legislative session, Gov. Abbott took to the road stumping for vouchers – holding meetings in a number of private, religious schools to make his case. He was also called out for using cheap tactics, such as push polls, to intimidate lawmakers into passing such legislation.
Many public school advocates see the Governor’s push for vouchers as part of a larger attack on public schools and in particular teachers. The only thing standing between them and the privatization of their schools, adequate funding, and adequate pay is the vote of the Texas House.
Monty Exter, Governmental Relations Director for the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) says that members’ votes are critical to teachers in his organization and that the organization has expectations of members relating to public education and their role as lawmakers.
“We expect members to file bills that would provide education funding and an educator pay raise without a voucher”, Exter said. “We expect them to vote in favor of amendments that provide education funding and an educator pay raise without a voucher. We expect them to vote in favor of bills that provide education funding and an educator pay raise without a voucher. And, we absolutely expect them to vote against any bill or amendment that does contain a voucher. If they, as our representative, do those things and the Gov., Lt. Gov. and pro-voucher minority refuse to pass legislation that provides for increased education funding and an educator pay raise without a voucher anyway, they still will have earned our support.”
The third special session in Texas is tentatively scheduled to commence on October 9th.
This story has been updated to reflect Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) denial of a conversation that took place between her and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio).