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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 13, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 10/13/2023

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.

SPECIAL SESSION: The Texas Senate has passed Senate Bill (SB) 1, which would create a virtually unlimited voucher program that would divert public funds available for public education to instead pay those already attending private schools. The voucher program would divert $500 million in funds currently available for public education to instead pay $8,000 per year to those attending private schools and $1,000 per year to home-schoolers. The Senate adopted nearly a dozen amendments, including expanding voucher eligibility to home-schoolers and allowing the state to spend public funds to advertise the voucher program. The Senate separately passed SB 2, which would add $5.2 billion in public education funding over the next two years. The funding includes expanding the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA), increasing school safety funding, and providing a $3,000 stipend for most teachers and a $10,000 stipend for teachers in districts with fewer than 5,000 students—an offer intended to win over legislators representing rural districts who have traditionally been vigorous opponents of vouchers. Although the voucher and funding bills were passed separately, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Thursday that he would not allow school funding and teacher pay to be passed until the voucher bill is on his desk, reemphasizing his intention to hold schools and teachers hostage to a bill that will allow him to defund them. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has more in this blog post, and ATPE members are encouraged to log in to Advocacy Central to contact their House members urging them to vote against SB 1 and vote for SB 2 without any amendments. Passing SB 2 unamended would force the governor’s hand on school funding and teacher pay. 

ATPE MEDIA APPEARANCES: ATPE Governmental Relations team members spoke to several media outlets this week about the special session, including The Texas Tribune, Community Impact, and CNHI. ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes released this statement on the first day of the special session.  In addition, ATPE state officers Jason Forbis, Jerrica Liggins, and Stacey Ward were interviewed for this Texas Tribune article on the fact that a teacher pay raise is being held hostage by state leadership over vouchers. 

BOOT VOUCHERS RALLY: More than a thousand public educators and parents attended the Boot Vouchers 2023 Rally Oct. 7 at the State Capitol. Organized by grassroots advocacy group Texans for Public Education (T4PE), the rally drew crowds from across the state, including many ATPE members from as far away as the Rio Grande Valley. ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter was a featured speaker at the rally. Following the gathering at the Capitol, attendees marched to the Governor’s Mansion, where they symbolically left old cowboy boots in protest of Abbott’s voucher push.

HD 2 SPECIAL ELECTION: Early voting runs Oct. 23 through Nov. 3 in the Nov. 7 special election to fill the House District (HD) 2 seat left vacant when former Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) was expelled from the Texas House in May. Six candidates—one Democrat and five Republicans—are vying for the seat, with only one of the Republicans opposing vouchers. If you live in HD 2, please review the Teach the Vote profiles for these candidates. 

MORATH AND CHARTER WAIVERS: Amid a heavy news week on the private school voucher front, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica released a powerhouse investigative piece showing that Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has repeatedly waived expansion requirements for underperforming public charter school networks, holding them to a different performance standard than traditional ISDs, such as Houston ISD.



Amanda Headrick Kelley

Thank you ATPE, for your clear and concise message about how leaders including the Governor are failing to protect Texas public schools by allowing vouchers to undermine and destroy our public schools. This fight has been ongoing for over 20 years. We knew it was a bad idea then and is still a bad idea for public schools. The majority of Texans are uneducated about vouchers are and what it means to educators and students alike.

Deann Lee

Thank you for ALL of your work on the rally and session and so many other things! Yall work TIRELESSLY!

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