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Texas Senate revives voucher, effectively killing teacher pay raise legislation

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 5/24/2023 | Author: Mark Wiggins

The Texas Senate hastily resurrected a dead voucher bill this week, effectively killing one of the last hopes for a teacher pay raise as well as an increase in school funding and much-needed special education funding reform.

The Senate voted late Tuesday night, May 23, 2023, to pass House Bill (HB) 100 just a day after Senate Education Committee Chair Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe) held a last-minute hearing to replace the original bill language with a voucher.

While most Texans were tucked into their beds, Creighton suspended parliamentary rules around 11 p.m. Sunday, May 21, to set a public hearing for 8:30 a.m. the following morning on HB 100. The rules normally require posting an agenda 24 hours before a public hearing, but Creighton’s late-night move allowed the committee to meet early Monday morning without any effective notice.

Adding to the opacity, Creighton circulated an unvetted 133-page committee substitute for HB 100 before formally presenting the committee with a 53-page version that included a voucher in addition to stripping out much of the House language. Committee members had little time to read either version before voting Monday along party lines, with the Republican majority advancing the bill to a vote by the full Senate.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) immediately added HB 100 to Tuesday’s agenda in order to pass the poisoned bill as quickly as possible. Despite bipartisan opposition by Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) and Senate Democrats, Patrick’s loyal majority suspended procedural rules again and passed the bill on a vote of 18-13.

Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) authored the House version of HB 100, which would have increased the Basic Allotment by $100 per student and added an adjustment for inflation that would have resulted in a significant increase to public education funding over time. The bill would have made changes to the minimum salary schedule intended to increase teacher pay and would have transitioned special education to an intensity-based funding model designed to boost funding for special education students. It would have transitioned significant portions of the school finance system from an attendance- to enrollment-based model.

Creighton’s substitute language slashed the increase to the basic allotment in half and added the universal school voucher from Senate Bill (SB) 8, along with a host of other Senate initiatives. With the House already on record opposing vouchers this session, the addition of voucher language has effectively killed the bill and the entirety of its contents.

Sen. Nathan Johnson (D–Dallas) pointed out the intentional extermination of critical funding and reforms as senators prepared to pass the bill late Tuesday night, calling the move “spiteful.”

The bill now heads back to the House, where it is considered dead on arrival. The House may either concur with the Senate version, which is unlikely, or reject it. The House has the option to appoint conferees to negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions, but the Senate is unlikely to accept a bill without a voucher, and the House is unlikely to accept a bill with one.


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