Additional Public School Funding and Teacher Pay Raises Included in the Deal
Texas Governor Greg Abbott revealed on Tuesday that he has reached an “agreement” with Texas House leaders that could move forward his stalled school choice plan. The announcement comes as the third special legislative session is set to end in one week. However, the Speaker’s office did not confirm the deal.
Governor Abbott stated that he has expanded the special session agenda to include additional public school funding and teacher pay raises. This comes after discussions with House Speaker Dade Phelan. The proposed deal would also increase the amount of money families could receive through an education savings account program that the Governor wants to establish in the state. Abbott said that participating students could receive around $10,400 per year, a figure higher than what was previously proposed by both the House and Senate.
When asked for a comment, Cassi Pollock, the press secretary for Speaker Phelan, said that the Speaker’s office has been working daily with the Governor to expand the call for the special session. Pollock added that Speaker Phelan appreciates the Governor’s efforts and looks forward to discussing school funding, teacher pay, and other critical education issues with his House colleagues.
The announcement comes at a time when Texas teachers are resigning at record rates, often citing low pay as a reason for leaving the profession. Paige Frontera, a middle school history teacher, mentioned that she and her husband had to sell their family home to make ends meet. She expressed disappointment in the state’s political battles over education.
Democrats and some rural Republicans still oppose the education savings accounts (ESAs). Reps. Gina Hinojosa and James Talarico, Austin Democrats who co-chair the House Democratic Caucus Committee on Education, vowed to work against the plan. Rep. Ernest Bailes, a Republican, criticized Abbott for not initially including public school funding and teacher pay raises in the special session agenda.
According to an email from Abbott’s office, the legislation to expand school choice in Texas would include universal eligibility for all K-12 schoolchildren in Texas, voluntary participation, and approximately $10,400 per year in Education Savings Accounts for participating students. The bill also proposes phasing out the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) Test and includes billions more in funding for Texas public schools, including teacher pay raises.
Governor Abbott has indicated that he will continue to call lawmakers back for more special sessions if a school voucher bill is not sent to his desk. He also suggested that he might get involved in certain Republican primaries next year if House members continue to oppose the measure.