AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As a tense Texas House prepares to debate a massive $36 billion school finance plan on Friday morning, rural House Republicans have filed an amendment to strip the controversial provision that would establish education savings accounts (ESAs).
State Rep. John Raney, a College Station Republican and longtime opponent of any school voucher plan, has proposed the amendment to eliminate the entire section of the bill that would establish ESAs. About 15 other Republicans signed onto that amendment, setting it up for success if all Democrats vote for it.
Lawmakers expect a relatively short day should that amendment pass. If the House passes a bill without education savings accounts, it would be dead on arrival in the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he would veto it.
Even before the debate began, House Bill 1 attracted criticism from both the strongest liberals and staunchest conservatives.
“You’re gonna see debate on a massive public education bill, combined with a tiny school choice program. And the reason that massive spending is in there is the belief by some that you essentially have to buy the votes to get school choice started,” State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, told Nexstar. He joins some other conservatives who are concerned the high price of the bill does not provide education savings accounts to enough children.
Democrats, meanwhile, will stand united against any ESA provision as they have all year.
“We have still not taken care of our teachers, who are the guardians of education for our public school system. And I think that’s what we should be doing first, instead of holding them hostage, trying to get a voucher,” State Rep. Carl Sherman, D-Desoto, told Nexstar.
House Democratic leaders are instructing their caucus to allow Republicans to lead the way on the anti-ESA amendment, according to internal communications obtained by Nexstar.
“This will be the most important amendment of the day, and we are confident our bipartisan majority will support it,” caucus leaders wrote to their members. “We do not want to do anything that will jeopardize votes to defeat school voucher scams.”
This coverage is ongoing. Follow along here for updates.