AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lawmakers are back together at the Texas Capitol, but top Republican leaders have never been further apart. Proposals for major new public school funding are competing with the Governor’s priority for private school subsidies as legislative leaders trade attacks more hostile than ever.
Education funding leads the debate — both for public schools and private schools. The governor is calling for a universal ‘educational freedom’ plan that would use state money to subsidize private education expenses, while legislators are also prioritizing major increases to public school funding and teacher pay.
The Texas Senate on Monday moved swiftly to advance their school finance package, allocating $5.2 billion in additional school funding in Senate Bill 2.
That package includes $400 million for school safety, doubling the minimal funding that came with the legislature’s sweeping school safety bill passed in the regular session.
Senate Bill 2 also gives every Texas teacher a $3,000 raise, with teachers in districts with fewer than 5,000 students receiving an additional $7,000 per year.
“The future of Texas begins in the classroom, and it is incumbent on lawmakers to unleash the potential of education for the 6 million students we serve. This package of legislation infuses historic new funds into public schools, raises the basic allotment and provides immediate across the board raises for Texas educators,” the bill’s author State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said in a statement Monday.
House leaders have also supported a teacher pay raise and school funding boost, but have been slower to act without an explicit call from Gov. Greg Abbott. The governor alone can set the agenda for the special session, and he has not yet asked for any public school funding measures.
Top Republicans, however, have stressed the importance of passing school funding in tandem with an education savings account program.
“School finance is very important to this. The governor knows that,” House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said.
“Every single one of us wants to give the teachers a pay raise. We all know they deserve it. So we want to be able to vote for them to get a raise, no question about it,” House GOP Caucus Chair Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, told Nexstar.
Democrats have unequivocally rejected any such compromise.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Trey Martinez-Fischer told Nexstar his caucus would not support a deal to pass a school voucher program along with teacher pay.
“We’re united. No vouchers. No deals. It’s pretty simple,” he said.