With more special sessions yet to be called by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) announced that he has created a new select committee to consider issues and matters that affect educational opportunities for K-12 students.
According to Phelan’s proclamation, the committee with make recommendations for:
- Ensuring all Texas youths enjoy equal educational opportunities and the freedom to obtain a quality education.
- Improving outcomes for Texas public school students and supporting educators and educational institutions.
- Modernizing assessment and accountability measures for Texas schools educating K-12 students.
Phelan says the new Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment “will begin working immediately to develop a workable roadmap for legislation in the House.”
I’ve just created a new Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment. With a special session on education matters all but certain, the select committee will begin working immediately to develop a workable roadmap for legislation in the House. #txlege pic.twitter.com/8uyekW4Rxo
— Dade Phelan (@DadePhelan) June 12, 2023
Leading the committee is State Rep. Brad Buckley (R–Salado) and Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D–San Antonio), along with Reps. Trent Ashby (R–Lufkin), Keith Bell (R–Forney), Harold Dutton (D–Houston), James Frank (R–Wichita Falls), Cody Harris (R–Palestine), Cole Hefner (R–Mount Pleasant), Gina Hinojosa (D–Austin), Ken King (R–Canadian), Oscar Longoria (D–Mission), Will Metcalf (R–Montgomery), Matt Shaheen (R–Plano), James Talarico (D–Austin), and Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston).
However, among the list of representatives working on improving education for children, most either voted against or refused to cast their vote on school choice this past legislative session.
Ashby, Bell, and King all voted alongside Democrats to support an amendment to the state’s budget prohibiting funds from being used for school choice programs. Buckley and Harris also stood aside and chose not to vote either in favor of or against the amendment.
The amendment was ultimately adopted in a vote of 86-52-11 in the House, but it was never brought up in the Senate.
Along with the Republicans who chose to vote against school choice, Buckley, who chairs the House Public Education Committee, has been known to leave various school choice bills dead in the committee. One of them, Senate Bill 8 by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), would have provided families with $8,000 per student enrolled in a new education savings account program.
Another measure to create ESAs, House Bill 4340 by Frank, also died in Buckley’s committee.
Abbott has yet to announce a special session dedicated to school choice, although he said during a press conference held Monday to sign several parent empowerment bills that he will focus on the issue after lawmakers deal with property tax reform.