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Texas House Speaker announces new committee as Gov. Abbott reiterates voucher threats

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 6/12/2023 | Author: Mark Wiggins

Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) announced June 12, 2023, the formation of a new House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment. Monday’s announcement came at the same time Gov. Greg Abbott (R) reiterated his intention of calling another special session of the Legislature to pass a private school voucher bill.

“With a special session on education matters all but certain, the select committee will begin working immediately to develop a workable roadmap for legislation in the House,” Phelan said Monday in a Twitter post accompanying the announcement.

The new committee is charged with “ensuring all Texas youths enjoy equal educational opportunity and the freedom to obtain quality education, regardless of circumstance; improving outcomes for Texas public school students and meaningfully supporting educators and educational institutions; and modernizing assessment and accountability measures for Texas schools educating K-12 students.” In a statement, ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes cautioned the House against tying vouchers, teacher pay, and testing together: “We saw during the regular session how strongly public educators feel about not tying these issues together and about hasty legislative proposals being crafted without their input or a thorough vetting. These tactics are a nonstarter, and nothing has changed in the past few weeks.”

Phelan ordered the committee to submit a report by Aug. 11, 2023, in the same manner as an interim study. The initial report is to include “identification of the current menu of choices available to K-12 students in Texas and highlighting of options for providing additional educational opportunities to K-12 students.”

The 15 members of the committee are:

The announcement coincided with a press conference in which Abbott said he still plans to call a special session at a future date to try to pass a voucher bill. Such a bill would defund public schools and divert taxpayer dollars to subsidize tuition to private and for-profit schools.

That effort failed during the regular legislative session amid heavy opposition from Republicans in the Texas House who opposed stripping resources away from children attending rural schools to primarily benefit the metropolitan elite in cities like Dallas and Houston.

House members sent a message in April when a bipartisan majority voted for a budget amendment prohibiting public tax dollars from going to private school vouchers. The Texas Senate, under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), stripped that amendment from the budget in conference committee.

“We got far closer than what people know” to passing a voucher, Abbott claimed Monday.

The governor added he expects a special session voucher bill to again link vouchers, a rebranding of the STAAR test, and funding for teacher pay and other initiatives in the same bill. The Senate attempted unsuccessfully to link a voucher to teacher pay in House Bill (HB) 100, killing any prospects of a raise for educators in the process.



Deena Bosier

We need higher pay for educators, less student testing and no vouchers.

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