As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warns lawmakers that he will call a special legislative session to address school choice next month, citizens are preparing for the fight ahead.
Although passing meaningful school choice legislation was one of Abbott’s—and the Republican Party of Texas’—legislative priorities, the Texas House failed to approve measures sent over from the Senate.
Senators greenlit several school choice measures that would have given Texas families the freedom to choose how their children are educated.
State Sen. Brandon Creighton’s (R-Conroe) Senate Bill 8 would have funded education savings accounts at $8,000 per student a year and provided a reimbursement of $10,000 to rural school districts with fewer than 20,000 students for each student who withdraws from public school. It would have also expanded parental rights by standardizing the district grievance process, requiring consent to administer any psychological tests, providing transparency of instructional materials, and prohibiting teaching on sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, SB 8 died in the Texas House.
The House also failed to approve State Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s (R–Houston) Senate Bill 1474 and House Bill 3781 by State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R–Richmond), both of which would have expanded a limited education savings account program for students with special needs.
Several other measures were left pending indefinitely after a hearing in the House Public Education Committee.
After the legislature failed to pass priority conservative legislation during the 88th Regular Legislative Session, Abbott warned lawmakers that he would call them back later in the year for several special sessions.
Now, with Abbott expected to call legislators back as soon as next month for a session focused on school choice and education, data from the Texas Education Agency shows that parents are increasingly looking for alternative education options for their children.
In the 2021-2022 school year, there were 29,785 withdrawals for students in grades 7-12, indicating the record highs of withdrawals during the COVID-19 era are continuing. The 2020-2021 school year saw 29,845 students in grades 7-12 leave government schools.
THSC’s Vice President of Policy & Engagement, Jeremy Newman, highlighted why some parents are becoming increasingly concerned with the state’s education system.
“Many parents feel like putting their children in public school is a roll of the dice on their child’s future, and they aren’t willing to do it,” said Newman. “The school system’s falling academic performance, parental concerns about school safety and bullying, the endless parade of frontline political battles in the classroom… all of these contribute to an environment where many parents feel like if they want any influence at all in how their child is raised and educated, they cannot put their children in the public school system.”
Abbott has announced that he will call a special session on education sometime in October, and warned lawmakers that he is dedicated to passing school choice legislation.
“There’s an easy way to get it done and a hard way to get it done,” said Abbott. “The easy way will be for these legislators to come into the regular session, this next special session, and vote in favor of school choice. So if they make it the hard way, we’re happy to take the hard way also. Either way, I’m in this to win this.”