After being brought to the floor for a vote for the first time in decades, school choice was killed by members of the Texas House, leaving the fate of the fourth special session uncertain.
The legislation as it was brought to the House would create an education savings account of approximately $10,500 available to any child. A child who is homeschooled would qualify for $1,000.
The plan also included teacher pay raises. In year one, full-time teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians would earn a $4,000 bonus, while part-time employees would earn $2,000. In year two, the continuation of pay increases would be set by local districts using the state’s basic allotment process.
Despite being a priority of the Republican Party of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott, the House has repeatedly rejected school choice programs. This vote was no different, as members voted to strip the school choice element out of the bill entirely.
The amendment was authored by State Rep. John Raney (R–Bryan), who announced he would not be seeking re-election earlier this year.
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) objected to the amendment by calling a point of order, arguing that stripping the ESA portion would materially change the bill’s original intent and differ from what Abbott instructed lawmakers to pass during the current special session. House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) overruled the point of order.
Raney claimed school choice would not help his district, and called it an “entitlement program” that the state could not afford.
State Rep. Glenn Rogers (R–Graford) spoke in favor of the amendment, calling a proposition from 2022 on the Republican Primary ballot that showed 88 percent of Republican voters support school choice “biased.” Rogers was endorsed by Abbott in 2022.
State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian), meanwhile, called the attempt to strip school choice from the bill “anti-parent” and “anti-student.”
In a vote of 84-63 members voted for the amendment, removing the school choice program from the school spending bill.
The Republicans who voted to kill school choice include:
Following that vote, Buckley moved to send the bill back to committee, meaning there was no vote for now on the overall spending package. The House will now stand at ease until Tuesday.
The Senate has passed school choice numerous times.
Abbott, meanwhile, has said he may call lawmakers back for additional special sessions into the next year if the program does not pass now.