Education savings accounts removed from Texas House education omnibus bill

Following a year of anticipation and four special sessions, the hopes of school choice being passed on the floor of the Texas House have been dashed after an amendment stripped education savings accounts (ESAs) from this special session’s education omnibus bill.

The amendment offered by Rep. John Raney (R-College Station) was initially signed by 16 other members before being passed by a vote of 84 to 63.

Members then voted to lock that change in and prevent the removal from being reconsidered at a later time, a motion which passed by the same margin as Raney’s amendment.

Of the 85 Republicans in the House, those voting in favor of the ESA removal amendment included:

Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio)
Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd)
Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney)
Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne)
Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches)
Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo)
Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview)
Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall)
Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station)
Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian)
Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin)
Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene)
Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction)
Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo)
Rep. John Raney (R-College Station)
Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford)
Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple)
Rep. Reggie Smith (R-Sherman)
Rep. Ed Thompson (R-Pearland)
Rep. GaryVanDeaver (R-New Boston)
The ESA removal amendment was supported by all 64 House Democrats.

There were over 40 amendments filed during the House floor debate.

A point of order was called by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) immediately after Raney began laying out his amendment, claiming that it changed the purpose of the bill and was not in line with the governor’s call. However, it was not successful in squashing the amendment.

Points of order are procedural maneuvers that enforce the rules of the House, and are often used to try and kill legislation or amendments before the body.

House Bill (HB) 1 was the result of months of work by Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Salado), chairman of the Texas House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment created to address school choice. In coordination with Gov. Greg Abbott, Buckley filed an omnibus education package in the hopes of passing school choice legislation paired with public school funding and teacher pay raises.

Heading into the House floor vote, many suspected that the removal of ESAs from the education omnibus bill was looming, as members had dissented during previous test votes this year and opponents rallied their troops as the vote approached.

The effort to pass school choice in the Texas House endured scrutiny from both inside and outside the Capitol. Despite four special sessions, a highly contentious regular session, and relentless promotion from Abbott, there was not enough support to move school choice provisions through the House.

In contrast, the Texas Senate has passed its own school choice bills in the 88th regular session and again in the third and fourth called special sessions.

The removal of ESAs from the education package was foreshadowed in the Herrero amendment vote during the 88th regular session to prohibit state dollars from going to school choice programs. It passed the House with 86 votes, 24 of which were Republicans.

Many of the Republicans who voted in favor of removing ESAs also hail from rural districts.

Abbott has long been a proponent of ESAs, and he has proclaimed that lawmakers will continue to return to the Capitol until school choice passes. In the weeks leading up to the floor vote, Abbott commissioned a poll in Republican-controlled House districts to assess how the public felt toward different aspects of school choice.

The governor also said that he would veto any education bill that makes it to his desk without ESAs attached.

School choice advocates’ last hope for this special session rests with the unlikely passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1 in the House, which was passed through the upper chamber one week ago.

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