Vouchers, which divert public education dollars to private school tuition, don’t seem to be gaining traction (Photo by Getty Images)
Gov. Greg Abbott has promised a breakthrough on “education savings accounts,” otherwise known as school vouchers, ever since the Texas Legislature’s special session began on Oct. 9. With the session ending on Tuesday, it’s clear those promises were worthless.
Abbott’s rhetoric on vouchers – which take money from public education to give to parents for private school expenses – became delusional as Capitol watchers realized there would be no breakthrough. “We are on track to ensure there will not be another special session,” Abbott declared on Nov. 1. “I think [there] will be a bill that will be coming out of the House later on today. I think that it will be embraced because so many legislators will have so many wins in the bill that will be coming out today.”
In an effort to make a compromise happen, Abbott also allowed legislators to consider increasing school funding, after insisting for months that he wouldn’t do so until vouchers had passed. Still, no bill came out that day. But a few allies did join Abbott in pretending a breakthrough was imminent. Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick said the schedule would be tight but a bill could be passed before the session’s end. Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, an anti-woke nonprofit founded by Betsy Devos, tweeted, “IT’S HAPPENING, TEXAS.”
Observers like Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report, were amused. Braddock tweeted that DeAngelis had made a “rookie mistake” by “assuming Greg Abbott says almost anything in good faith.” A prominent Republican opponent of vouchers, Rep. Ernest Bailes, R-Shepherd, said Abbott’s comments were “nothing more than political theater.” Austin Rep. Gina Hinojosa said, “It’s clear that Gov. Abbott is trying to set House Republicans up.”
Others judged the comments as less a setup than the blithe assurance of someone not committed to the fight. After promising a bill was forthcoming, the governor flew to Israel. With the most powerful voucher advocate gone from the scene, the House promptly took the weekend off, adjourning until Monday.
During the adjournment House Education Committee chair Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, introduced HB 1, which is presumably the breakthrough Abbott had bragged about. HB 1 would give parents $10,500 per student to use on private school expenses – up from the $8,000 per student previously proposed. It would provide a $4,000 bonus to full-time teachers and $2,000 for those working part-time. And it would increase per-student education spending by $540 – from $6,160 to $6,700 (about half of what educators say is necessary to bring funding back to 2019 levels) – and begin adjusting that amount for inflation in 2026. In a letter to his colleagues, Buckley asked that they study the proposal in preparation for a fourth special session.
A fourth special is possible, but there is no sign of a crack in the coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans who reject vouchers. After HB 1’s appearance, far-right voices bemoaned its increased spending on public education and demanded a “clean” bill. Voucher opponents agreed, calling for an up or down vote on vouchers alone, confident that the votes are not there. And for the umpteenth time, House Democrats reiterated their opposition to vouchers, tweeting, “The bipartisan, pro-public education majority in the Texas House will defeat this voucher scam just like we have every single time since the first voucher was proposed in 1957.”
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