Highs, Lows for Public Education in House Budget Fight, Senate Votes

Yesterday was a busy and often chaotic day at the Legislature. The Texas House spent the day debating and, ultimately, approving its budget for the next two years with a vote of 136-10. 

The Texas Senate, meanwhile, debated and voted on Senate Bill 8, its primary voucher bill, and Senate Bill 9, its deceptively named “teacher bill of rights.” 

There were several notable wins and losses for public education in both chambers, and we’ve highlighted some of the most important below. 

Remember, however, that for better or worse: nothing is truly ever a done deal until the Legislature adjourns May 31. There is plenty of fight left for the respect we need and the schools our kids deserve. 

Texas House Votes Down Funding Vouchers, Senate Passes Voucher Bill Anyway

Despite enormous pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and his out-of-state donors seeking to privatize our schools, the Texas House stood firm once again on school vouchers. 

The Herrero Amendment to HB 1 prohibits the Texas Legislature from using state dollars to fund private school voucher programs — in any form. Public education ally Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) has proposed this amendment many times before, and it has passed with large majorities. 

This year was no different. 

With the approval of the Herrero Amendment to House Bill 1, private school voucher proponents have yet again failed to get a legislative seal of approval in Texas.

This decades-long failure is because of two simple facts: these schemes do not work and Texans cherish their local public schools

We thank the bipartisan coalition of Texas House members who have respected public school students, parents, and educators with this vote. See how your representative voted below. 

The fight against vouchers, however, is not finished. Yesterday, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 8, its primary vehicle for vouchers. SB 8 would provide parents with $8,000 “education savings accounts,” funded by state revenue that would otherwise be sent to public schools, ”to use on private school tuition, school materials, or other expenses with private education.” 

SB 8 also includes hateful “Don’t Say Gay” censorship language that will limit discussions about LGBTQIA+ Texans and will have devastating real-world consequences, especially for LGBTQIA+ youth who already experience higher rates of bullying and suicide. Every young person deserves a school that welcomes them as they are, but SB 8 does the opposite, telling children and educators that their existence should be silenced. This language is yet another attack on the professionalism of the teachers and school staff who work tirelessly to support and care for their students. 

In his congratulatory press release after SB 8 passed the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed, “Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all support school choice because Texans agree that families must have choice in education so every child has the best chance of success.”

That statement is demonstrably false — even within the Senate itself. Every Senate Democrat voted against SB 8, as well as one Republican. 

$10,000 Educator Raise Voted Down by House, $2,000 Teacher-Only Raise Moves in Senate

The other major amendment to the House budget we were tracking (and so many of our members were calling about) was the Martinez Fischer Amendment, which would have guaranteed a $10,000 raise for certified educators. 

This across-the-board raise (along with a 15% raise for support staff) has been a major component of our Respect Agenda. When it arrived on the House floor for a vote yesterday, HB 1 included an increase in per-pupil funding of public schools of just $50 per student. That would translate to a $455 raise for Texas teachers — less than most spend out of their own pocket on classroom supplies each year

The budget had no other designated funding for teacher and staff raises. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, filed an amendment to resolve that issue. After a vigorous debate, the amendment was voted down by his colleagues on a mostly party-line vote, 66-79. 

Basic Allotment Increase Voted Down by House

Rep. John Bryant (D-Dallas) offered several key amendments to support active and retired educators. 

One of Bryant’s amendments would have increased the funding to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) with the purpose of providing a more robust cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) than what is currently being considered. The current Texas House plan for a COLA, HB 600, would provide a 2% to 6% COLA for retirees, depending on their retirement date. These percentages do not even begin to meet the needs of retirees, who have seen prices for consumer goods increase by 14.4% over just the past two years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

That amendment was struck down by a point of order from Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), which alleged that the measure would create general law. Lawmakers are prohibited from making general law in the budget.

Two more of Bryant’s amendments were intended to increase the basic allotment. The basic allotment, an amount of funding per student, is the primary building block of the school finance formulas and is set arbitrarily by the Legislature. 

The current proposal put forth by leadership in the Texas House in HB 100 would increase the basic allotment by only $90, which is nowhere close to the $1,000+ increase needed for the basic allotment to keep up with inflation. HB 100 specifies that at least 50% of any increase to the basic allotment should go to providing educators with raises, but it would not provide explicit funding for support staff.

Bryant’s first amendment would have increased education funding by more than $6 billion for the biennium in order to pay for a $500 increase to the basic allotment. In his layout of the amendment, Bryant acknowledged that more was needed to keep per-pupil funding at pace with inflation, but that the $500 increase would be a good start. His first amendment failed, 62-85.

The committee version of the Texas House budget set aside $5 billion for additional public education funding, but the language surrounding that money is vague. To ensure that money makes its way to public schools, Bryant’s amendment would have dedicated the entirety of that $5 billion to increasing the basic allotment. During the layout of the amendment, Bryant made it clear that without his amendment, this $5 billion could be used by the Texas Education Agency however they saw fit. His second amendment failed, 62-84.

Class-Size Limits Left Out of Budget

Rep. Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas) offered an amendment that would have prevented the TEA commissioner from providing class-size waivers to school districts that receive D and F ratings from the TEA. Smaller class sizes have been proven to improve student performance, yet under current law, TEA can unilaterally exempt even struggling schools from class-size rules. 

Davis’ amendment was struck down by a point of order from Rep. Cody Vasut (R-Angleton), which alleged that the measure would create general law. 

DEI in Higher Education Voted Down by House

Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (D-Mesquite) offered a budget amendment that would have removed the section of the budget that prohibits higher education institutions that get state funds from using those funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. This prohibition includes the hiring and supervision of employees and staff training. Criado and several other representatives delivered passionate speeches about the importance of DEI in fostering welcoming spaces and combating racism, but the amendment failed, 64-83

$900 Million Moved to Fund Retiree COLA

One of the last amendments of the night was another amendment by Chairman Martinez Fischer that diverted $900 million in funding to TRS, with the goal of covering a possible increase in active teacher contributions to the retirement system. Active TRS employees currently pay 8% of their salaries into the retirement system. The employee contribution was set to increase to 8.25% next year, but under HB 600, the House plan to provide current retirees with a COLA and ongoing COLAs for current and future retirees starting 2028, that contribution rate would increase to 9%. 

This $900 million in increased funding to TRS covers the increase in active employee contributions to TRS for at least the next biennium. This would allow active school employees to keep roughly $900 million in their pockets for the next biennium, as they would not have to increase their contributions to the retirement system. The amendment was accepted by Chairman Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), the author of both HB 1 and HB 600, and was adopted.

Increased Transparency for Charter Schools Included in Budget

Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) offered an amendment aimed at increasing charter school transparency. The amendment requires charter schools to disclose demographic, accountability, and student performance metrics on their website. This amendment required zero additional state funds and would be paid for out of public funds already being sent to charter schools. The amendment was adopted.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa Objects to Budget that Underfunds Public Education

To cap off the budget debate, Gina Hinojosa provided remarks lamenting the lack of public education funding included in the budget. In her comments, Hinojosa dedicated her “no” vote to her own son, a student of Austin ISD public schools. The other no votes in support of public education were: John Bryant, Yvonne Davis, Vikki Goodwin, Christina Morales (D-Houston), Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson), Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City), and Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston).

Vote Records on the Martinez Fischer & Herrero Amendments to HB 1

“Teachers Deserve a $10,000 Raise”

(Martinez Fischer Amendment)
“Public Dollars Are for Public Schools”

(Herrero Amendment)
Rep. Alma A. Allen (D)YesYes
Rep. Steve Allison (R)NoYes
Rep. Rafael Anchia (D)YesYes
Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson (R)NoNo
Rep. Trent Ashby (R)NoYes
Rep. Ernest Bailes (R)NoYes
Rep. Cecil Bell (R)NoNo
Rep. Keith Bell (R)NoYes
Rep. Diego Bernal (D)YesYes
Rep. Salman Bhojani (D)YesYes
Rep. Greg Bonnen (R)NoNo
Rep. Rhetta A. Bowers (D)YesYes
Rep. John Bryant (D)YesYes
Rep. Brad Buckley (R)NoPNV
Rep. John H. Bucy (D)YesYes
Rep. Benjamin Bumgarner (R)NoNo
Rep. DeWayne Burns (R)NoYes
Rep. Dustin Burrows (R)NoNo
Rep. Angie Chen Button (R)NoNo
Rep. Briscoe Cain (R)NoNo
Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Campos (D)YesYes
Rep. Terry Canales (D)YesYes
Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R)NoNo
Rep. Travis Clardy (R)NoYes
Rep. Sheryl Cole (D)YesYes
Rep. Nicole Collier (D)YesYes
Rep. David Cook (R)NoPNV
Rep. Philip Cortez (D)YesYes
Rep. Tom Craddick (R)NoNo
Rep. Charles Cunningham (R)NoNo
Rep. Drew Darby (R)NoYes
Rep. Yvonne Davis (D)YesYes
Rep. Jay Dean (R)NoYes
Rep. Mano DeAyala (R)NoPNV
Rep. Mark Dorazio (R)NoNo
Rep. Harold V. Dutton (D)YesPNV
Rep. LuLu Flores (D)YesYes
Rep. James Frank (R)NoNo
Rep. Frederick Frazier (R)NoPNV
Rep. Erin Elizabeth Gámez (D)YesYes
Rep. Josey Garcia (D)YesYes
Rep. Gary Gates (R)NoNo
Rep. Stan Gerdes (R)NoNo
Rep. Charlie L. Geren (R)NoYes
Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D)YesYes
Rep. Craig Goldman (R)NoNo
Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D)YesYes
Rep. Mary E. Gonzalez (D)YesYes
Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D)YesYes
Rep. R. D. “Bobby” Guerra (D)YesYes
Rep. Ryan Guillen (R)AbsentNo
Rep. Sam Harless (R)NoNo
Rep. Caroline Harris (R)NoNo
Rep. Cody Harris (R)NoPNV
Rep. Brian E. Harrison (R)NoNo
Rep. Richard Hayes (R)NoNo
Rep. Cole Hefner (R)NoNo
Rep. Ana Hernandez (D)YesYes
Rep. Abel Herrero (D)YesYes
Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D)YesYes
Rep. Justin Holland (R)NoYes
Rep. Donna Howard (D)YesYes
Rep. Lacey Hull (R)NoNo
Rep. Todd Hunter (R)NoNo
Rep. Carrie Isaac (R)YesNo
Rep. Jacey Jetton (R)NoNo
Rep. Ann Johnson (D)YesYes
Rep. Jarvis D. Johnson (D)YesYes
Rep. Julie Johnson (D)YesYes
Rep. Jolanda “Jo” Jones (D)YesYes
Rep. Venton Jones (D)YesYes
Rep. Kyle J. Kacal (R)NoYes
Rep. Ken King (R)NoYes
Rep. Tracy O. King (D)YesYes
Rep. Stan Kitzman (R)NoNo
Rep. Stephanie Klick (R)NoNo
Rep. John Kuempel (R)NoYes
Rep. Suleman Lalani (D)YesYes
Rep. Stan Lambert (R)NoYes
Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R)NoYes
Rep. Jeff Leach (R)NoNo
Rep. Terri Leo-Wilson (R)AbsentNo
Rep. Oscar Longoria (D)YesYes
Rep. Janie Lopez (R)YesNo
Rep. Ray Lopez (D)YesYes
Rep. J.M. Lozano (R)YesNo
Rep. John Lujan (R)NoPNV
Rep. Christian Manuel (D)YesYes
Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez (D)YesYes
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D)YesYes
Rep. Will Metcalf (R)NoNo
Rep. Morgan Meyer (R)NoNo
Rep. Thresa “Terry” Meza (D)YesYes
Rep. Joe Moody (D)YesYes
Rep. Christina Morales (D)YesYes
Rep. Eddie Morales (D)YesYes
Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (D)YesYes
Rep. Geanie W. Morrison (R)NoNo
Rep. Sergio Munoz (D)YesNo
Rep. Andrew Murr (R)NoYes
Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (D)YesYes
Rep. Candy Noble (R)NoNo
Rep. Tom Oliverson (R)NoNo
Rep. Claudia Ordaz (D)YesYes
Rep. Angelia Orr (R)NoYes
Rep. Evelina Ortega (D)YesYes
Rep. Jared Patterson (R)NoNo
Rep. Dennis Paul (R)NoNo
Rep. Mary Ann Perez (D)YesYes
Rep. Dade Phelan (R)PNVPNV
Rep. Mihaela E. Plesa (D)YesYes
Rep. Four Price (R)NoYes
Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D)YesYes
Rep. John Raney (R)NoYes
Rep. Richard Pena Raymond (D)YesYes
Rep. Ron Reynolds (D)YesYes
Rep. Glenn Rogers (R)NoYes
Rep. Ramon Romero (D)YesYes
Rep. Toni Rose (D)YesYes
Rep. Jon E. Rosenthal (D)YesYes
Rep. Matt Schaefer (R)NoNo
Rep. Nate Schatzline (R)NoNo
Rep. Mike Schofield (R)NoNo
Rep. Matt Shaheen (R)NoNo
Rep. Carl O. Sherman (D)YesYes
Rep. Hugh D. Shine (R)NoYes
Rep. Bryan Slaton (R)AbsentAbsent
Rep. Shelby Slawson (R)NoPNV
Rep. Reggie Smith (R)NoYes
Rep. John T. Smithee (R)NoNo
Rep. David Spiller (R)NoYes
Rep. Lynn Stucky (R)NoNo
Rep. Valoree Swanson (R)NoNo
Rep. James Talarico (D)YesYes
Rep. Carl Tepper (R)NoNo
Rep. Shawn Thierry (D)PNVYes
Rep. Kronda Thimesch (R)NoPNV
Rep. Ed Thompson (R)NoPNV
Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D)YesYes
Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R)NoNo
Rep. Steve Toth (R)NoNo
Rep. Ellen Troxclair (R)NoNo
Rep. Chris Turner (D)YesYes
Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R)NoYes
Rep. Cody T. Vasut (R)NoNo
Rep. Hubert Vo (D)YesYes
Rep. Armando L. Walle (D)YesYes
Rep. Terry Wilson (R)NoNo
Rep. Gene Wu (D)YesYes
Rep. Erin Zwiener (D)YesYes