Yet another watered-down school choice proposal from the Texas House has failed to meet Gov. Greg Abbott’s expectations.
As part of the third special session, Abbott has tasked lawmakers with implementing a school choice program. Specifically, he has called for “legislation providing education savings accounts for all Texas schoolchildren.”
While the Senate made quick work of the issue, having passed it multiple times previously, school choice programs have never even received a vote in the Texas House.
Last week, House Speaker Dade Phelan referred the Senate’s school choice bill to the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment chaired by State Rep. Brad Buckley (R–Salado). Notably, most of the members of that committee either voted against or refused to cast their vote on school choice during the regular legislative session earlier this year.
On Thursday, Buckley filed House Bill 1—a nearly 200 page proposal that combines teacher pay raises with a very limited education savings account program.
While the Senate’s version would give $8,000 to each student to spend on private schools and other education expenses, the current House version limits that to 75 percent of the average funding per-pupil at public schools, or around $6,160. Students with disabilities from low-income families would receive priority.
Additionally, the bill has a cap of only 25,000 students in its first year.
The legislation would also overhaul the state’s A-F accountability ratings for public schools, removing the ratings entirely for the current school year.
Abbott’s office says the legislation doesn’t match his expectations.
“Governor Abbott spoke with Speaker Phelan this morning in what was a productive conversation,” Abbott’s office said in a statement to the Texas Tribune. “The Governor let the Speaker know that the current version of the House school choice bill differs from what the Governor’s office had negotiated with the House’s leadership team selected by the Speaker. Speaker Phelan agreed to continue to work with Governor Abbott on the agreed-upon principles of school choice until a deal is reached.”
This is not the first time Abbott has shot down an insufficient school choice program in the House.
During the final weeks of the regular legislative session in May, Buckley attempted to bring another watered down proposal that Abbott said he would not sign into law. The legislation ultimately did not receive a committee vote.
As of publishing, Buckley has not responded to a request for comment from Texas Scorecard.