As the third special session ends without any school choice legislation agreed upon by both chambers, the House Public Education Committee Chairman is proposing a new piece of legislation for the fourth special session call.
State Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Salado) chairs the House Public Education Committee and has revealed a draft of his plan “to support and enhance the quality of education in the State of Texas.”
“The attached bill draft has been shaped by extensive discussion between House Members, the Governor’s office, and key education stakeholders over the past several months,” wrote Buckley to his House colleagues. “That collaboration has been essential to both setting the framework for this draft and getting the call expanded to include the House’s additional education priorities so that every House member will have ample opportunity to provide input once we convene for the fourth-called special session.”
The new plan outlines multiple initiatives, including Education Savings Accounts (ESA), teacher pay raises, and providing school districts with additional funding.
Under Buckley’s new plan, any child will be able to apply for an ESA and each child will receive approximately $10,500. If a student does not use the full amount for that year, it will be returned to the general fund. The funds do not roll over from year to year.
A child who is homeschooled will qualify for $1,000.
Students will be prioritized in the following order:
- Priority Group 1 – Children with a disability who are members of a household with total annual income that is at or below 400 percent of federal poverty limit.
- Priority Group 2 – Members of a household with a total annual income that is at
- or below 185 percent of the federal poverty limit.
- Priority Group 3 – Children who are members of a household with a total annual income that is above 185 percent and below 400 percent of the federal poverty limit.
- Priority Group 4 – Children who are members of a household with total annual income that is at or above 400 percent of the federal poverty limit.
Additionally, students who accept an ESA will be required to take a state assessment test or a nationally norm-reference test.
Students who do not perform satisfactorily on the assessment two years in a row will be disqualified from the program.
The plan also includes teacher pay raises. In year one, full-time teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians will earn a $4,000 bonus, while part-time employees will earn $2,000. In year two, the continuation of pay increases will be decided through the proposed Basic Allotment growth.
Furthermore, the plan establishes a Residency Partnership Allotment, which provides districts up to $42,000 to pay salaries to teacher residents. Rural and high-need districts could receive even more.
Special education will also receive additional funding.
School choice advocate Corey DeAngelis told Texas Scorecard that he commends Buckley’s plan and hopes both Democrats and Republicans get on board.
“I commend Representative Buckley for including school choice with eligibility for all families in his proposal. The House should pass this bill to empower Texas families with education freedom if Governor Abbott calls another special session,” said DeAngelis. “House Democrats should stop holding children’s education hostage. Texas Democrats should not be willing to block billions of dollars for teacher raises just to trap kids in failing government schools that reflect their leftist worldview. Texas House Republicans should vote in favor of their own party platform and empower families with school choice. If they don’t, school choice will still come to Texas ‘the hard way,’ as Governor Abbott put it.”
Gov. Greg Abbott called the fourth special session on Tuesday evening.