Gov. Abbott threatens to veto current school choice legislation

After a second version of the Texas House version of the Senate’s school choice plan was released, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk.

“As this session has progressed, the number of House members supporting school choice has continued to grow,” Abbott said. “However, failure to expand the scope of school choice to something close to the Senate version or the original House version of the Senate bill will necessitate special sessions. Parents and their children deserve no less.”

These comments come after the release of a second updated version to Senate Bill (SB) 8, which state legislators have championed as the Texas school choice framework, though it has been significantly changed as it made its way through the House.

The first House substitute reformulated many aspects of the original plan, including creating a tiered funding strategy, removing the ban on sexual orientation and gender identity curricula, and changing the protection focus away from rural districts toward special needs and low-income students.

Now, the second version of the House school choice plan is eligible for a smaller population of students. To be eligible for the education savings account (ESA) program, a student must have been a public school student who attended an “F” rated school or is special needs.

The plan also allocates $200 million for ESAs, catching the attention of some legislators online.

Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) commented, “We’re spending 4 times that on movie subsidies.”

Abbott commented over the weekend, “This latest version does little to provide meaningful school choice, and legislators deserve to know that it would be vetoed if it reached my desk.”

Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) also noted that he spoke to Abbott: “I am convinced that no one is going home without some meaningful school choice measure. Doubting [Abbott’s] resolve on this would be a mistake.”

“I do not believe ‘running out the clock’ on SB8 is an effective strategy and I would encourage my colleagues to keep working on this issue,” Oliversion continued. “If the plan is to get to sine die without passing anything, my advice would be to extend your leases today. Gonna be a long summer.”

Numerous politicians have raised the possibility of a special session being called by the governor to pass school choice legislation. SB 8’s author, Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have both said that they would be willing to spend the summer in Austin to make sure school choice passes.

Abbott has been touring Texas this session and has touted passing school choice legislation as his mission. 

“This is the future of Texas, the future of America, to educate our kids. We should have as a state, a goal of nothing less than having the best education system in the United States,” said Abbott in April.

Abbott’s statement that he would veto the current House version of the bill indicates that the Texas Legislature must continue to negotiate on the best plan forward for school choice, or else face a special session this summer.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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