The Texas Legislature has ended the Fourth Special Session, with the Texas House once again leaving school choice undone.
At a press conference held this afternoon, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick laid the blame at House Speaker Dade Phelan’s feet.
Gov. Greg Abbott tasked lawmakers with border security and education issues during this most recent special session.
While they made quick work of border security measures, the two chambers and the governor remain at an impasse regarding education.
Abbott’s call specifically mentions increased funding for government schools as well as a school choice program. While both chambers appeared to agree in the abstract on increased teacher pay and school safety funding, school choice remained the sticking point.
The plan pushed by Abbott and passed by the Senate would create Education Savings Accounts, by which students enrolled in the program would receive money that they could use to pay for tuition at a private school.
But while the Senate passed that legislation numerous times, the House voted to strip the school choice provision out of their omnibus school spending bill last month.
Since that vote, the House has not considered any additional legislation, leaving the school safety and teacher pay raise proposals to perish.
On Tuesday, the House adjourned sine die, one day earlier than the 30 days allotted for the special session, leaving senate bills on school safety and teacher pay raises unaddressed. The Senate followed shortly after, with Patrick calling a press conference for the afternoon.
Over the summer, Patrick had ramped up his criticism of Phelan, eventually calling on him to resign. While he says he will not get involved in House races, he did say he would personally be making the speaker selection an issue as a voter.
“Republican voters need to ask their House members if they’re going to support Speaker Phelan for speaker, and if they do, there’s a good chance they lose their race,” said Patrick.
He noted that, while he had disagreements with past speakers Joe Straus and Dennis Bonnen, he could have conversations with them. Phelan, meanwhile, has not communicated with him.
“This guy’s just flat out impossible to work with,” he added, saying that if Phelan is speaker of the House next session, school choice and other issues, such as a taxpayer-funded lobbying ban, will die again.
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) agreed.
“The only path to a functioning, conservative state government is new leadership in the Texas House,” said Tinderholt.
Abbott has not indicated whether he will call a fifth special session.