Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he has reached an agreement with House Speaker Dade Phelan that would create education savings accounts in Texas — a school voucher-like program opposed by Democrats and most rural Republicans.
Abbott's announcement comes exactly one week before the last day state lawmakers can pass any legislation during Texas’ third special legislative session this year.
This deal is more expansive than Senate Bill 1, the school voucher proposal passed by the Texas Senate earlier this month.
According to the agreement outlined by Gov. Abbott, every student — including those enrolled in private and public schools — would be eligible to participate in the program. Each student would get about $10,400 per year.
Tuesday's agreement between Abbott and Phelan came the same day the governor agreed to expand the call for the special session to also include funding for teacher raises and school safety, something that was not on the original call.
Abbott's expanded call also includes changes to statewide testing in public schools. The "STAAR Test will be phased out to be replaced with an improved assessment system," Abbott said.
In a text message to The Texas Newsroom, Cassi Pollock, Phelan's spokesperson, stopped short of saying there was an agreement. Instead, she said the Republican speaker "looks forward to having robust discussions on school funding, teacher pay, and other critical issues with his House colleagues."
"All members will have the opportunity to make their voices heard," Pollock said.
Opposition to vouchers is still strong
But school vouchers still face an uphill battle — most Democrats oppose school vouchers as well as Republican lawmakers who represent rural communities.
In the past, similar efforts have failed due to a lack of votes.
In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer slammed Republicans for not deciding to include teacher pay raises until now.
"Democrats have known since day-one of the regular and special session: our teacher pay is priority," Martinez Fischer said. "Unlike Republicans, it hasn't taken House Democrats 280 days to realize that raising teacher pay is a priority."
The Texas House of Representatives adjourned Tuesday morning until Wednesday evening due to a lack of quorum.
Republican lawmakers blamed Democrats' absences as the reason some of these measures had not moved forward.