Late last Thursday, after weeks of almost no action from the House on vouchers, Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Killeen), chairman of the House Public Education Committee and the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment, quietly filed House Bill 1, a voucher bill that includes some limited public education funding increases.
Since it was filed, Buckley’s bill has been quietly gathering dust. Legislators on either side of the voucher debate seem thoroughly uninterested in Buckley’s voucher. Gov. Greg Abbott, the public ringleader of the astroturf campaign to bring taxpayer-funded vouchers to Texas, declared Buckley’s plan as “insufficient.” Additionally, none of Buckley’s House colleagues have signed on as co-authors or joint authors. HB 1 has not been scheduled for a committee hearing; as yet, it hasn’t even been referred to one.
The voucher included in Buckley’s bill is in some ways more expansive and expensive than vouchers considered in previous proposals. Buckley’s voucher bill creates an expensive, universal private school voucher program using approximately $10,400 of your tax dollars for each participant. While the bill caps participants for the first three years, there is no cap in subsequent years.
The bill also sends more of your tax dollars to private, unaccountable entities by allowing the Supplemental Special Education Services grant to be used for purposes beyond special education needs.. Previously, those grants could only be spent on special education services and materials. Under Buckley’s bill, those grants could be used to pay for any “supplemental” services or materials.
Besides its voucher components, the bill does include modest public education funding increases by changing the teacher pay structure and incrementally increasing the basic allotment. The bill would also expand funding for other specific allotments like the school safety, fast growth, and early education allotments, and it creates new allotments for specific programs.
Abbott has publicly stated that he would only expand the special session call to allow the Legislature to consider public education funding increases after the Legislature sends him a standalone voucher bill. House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has publicly stated he has no intention of passing a standalone voucher bill that does not include public education funding increases.
The House’s inaction on any voucher bill shows that public school advocates, including our members who have consistently visited the Capitol since the beginning of the regular session, are being heard. As a result of listening to educators and their constituents at home, House members are standing strong in support of public schools. In contrast, the Senate quickly passed SB 1 and SB 2, which would provide a voucher and some additional public education funds, respectively, two weeks ago during the first week of the special session.
It is unclear what future, if any, lies ahead for Buckley’s bill.
‘Border Security,’ Vaccine Mandates Take Center Stage
This week, the Texas House has been hotly debating several bills intended to undermine the authority of Texas business owners and U.S. immigration authorities. Each of the four bills below were approved by the Texas House after 19 hours of contentious debate throughout the day Wednesday and into the early hours of Thursday morning.
- Senate Bill 7 authored by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) and sponsored by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers.
- House Bill 4 by Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro) would create a state crime for undocumented individuals entering the U.S. via the Texas border. Legal experts suggest that this move is unconstitutional as it seeks to preempt the federal government’s authority over enforcing our nation’s border and controlling immigration.
- House Bill 6 by Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) would appropriate $1.5 billion of taxpayer money to fund Abbott’s border wall.
- Senate Bill 4 authored by Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) and sponsored by Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) would increase the minimum sentence for smuggling immigrants or operating a stash house.