A new school choice proposal authored by a Republican in the Texas House is dead-on-arrival, and not just because Gov. Greg Abbott opposes some of its provisions.
The 184-page education proposal released on Oct. 19 by the state House exceeds the authority granted them by the rules of the special session called by Abbott, reports the Austin American Statesman.
Abbott has vowed that he won’t address other education issues until his school choice proposals have been approved by the House.
The bill, authored by Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, who is chairman of the House Public Education Committee, is titled HB1.
It is full of special interest spending, some of which Buckley hopes will sweeten the pot for lawmakers who were previously opposed to voting for school choice.
HB1 addresses “certification, compensation, and health coverage of certain public school employees, the public school finance system, special education in public schools, the establishment of an education savings account program, measures to support the education of public school students that include certain educational grant programs, reading instruction, and early childhood education, the provision of virtual education, and public school accountability,” said the bill’s summary.
Under the strict rules governing special sessions, Abbott specified that the session could only concern itself with education savings accounts (ESAs).
The bill can’t be taken up by the House committee that Buckley chairs, as Buckley’s office even admitted to the Statesman.
Texas Scorecard notes that a majority of those committee members previously refused to support school choice bills, including one introduced in a previous session this year.
While Abbott has promised he would address some of the issues in HB1 outside of ESA’s, as a legislative tactic, he vowed only to do so after his own school choice proposal was approved by the House, said the Texas Tribune.
Abbott has the freedom to add further agenda items for the special session when he sees fit.
“I want to make sure we provide a carrot to make sure this legislation gets passed,” Abbott said of attracting more support for his school choice proposals from rural Republican lawmakers after the Senate passed an ESA program earlier in the month.
At that time, Abbott also promised to support primary challengers to Republicans who did not support his school choice measures.
Abbott is currently negotiating his own school choice bill with House Speaker Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.
“The Governor let the Speaker know that the current [Buckley] 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,” a spokesman for the governor said in a statement. “Speaker Phelan agreed to continue to work with Governor Abbott on the agreed-upon principles of school choice until a deal is reached.”
The Lion reached out to the governor’s chief of staff, asking specifically when the Governor’s version of a school choice bill will be presented to the House.
Abbott has previously vowed to call the Legislature back into further special sessions until it gets a satisfactory school choice bill passed.
“We’re going to have multiple special sessions until we get these issues addressed and there will be an appropriate time when we bring up school choice, and if it doesn’t pass, we’ll bring it up again,” Abbott said in July.