New House committee signals likely voucher strategy | TCTA
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New House committee signals likely voucher strategy

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On Monday, House Speaker Dade Phelan announced the formation of the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment. Such committees are formed to conduct studies on topics of interest and present a report at the conclusion of their investigations.

This particular committee is charged with “identifying the current menu of choices available to K-12 students in Texas and highlighting options for providing additional educational opportunities to K-12 students.” While it doesn’t explicitly say the word, this almost certainly refers to voucher programs. Additional topics include “meaningfully supporting educators and educational institutions,” which could refer to teacher pay measures, and “[m]odernizing assessment and accountability measures for Texas schools.” The committee has until Aug. 11 to present its report, so any education-related special session will likely occur after that date.

Recently, Gov. Greg Abbott came out in support of Speaker Phelan’s perspective on lowering property taxes: tax compression. This plan would send money to districts so they can lower their tax rates. Gov. Abbott’s usual ally, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, favors an emphasis on raising the state’s homestead exemption with a lesser focus on compression, so Gov. Abbott’s support of Speaker Phelan’s plan could signal both a rift between Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick and the possibility that Speaker Phelan may work to soften the House’s longtime opposition to one of Gov. Abbott’s priorities of the session: school vouchers.

Gov. Abbott’s insistence on passing a voucher bill this session previously led House Public Education Chair Brad Buckley to adapt the Senate’s leading voucher bill, SB 8, to include changes to standardized testing and a narrower voucher program. Since the bill was heard in the House Public Education so late in the session, it languished and died in committee. This new Select Committee’s focus on many of the same topics as their SB 8 changes could signal a similar strategy in a future special session.

Given the committee’s short time frame, we anticipate that hearings will begin shortly.