Don't get confused: Abbott and the school choice coalition killed funding for public schools and teachers

by Suzanne Bellsnyder, Editor

Rural Republicans, who are now being targeted with misinformation about what they did, saved public education

Campaign season is in full force. So, let the games begin with the seriously misleading political messaging floating around, mainly targeted at our Rural Republicans who killed the school voucher proposals.

Abbott and his school choice cronies are putting out misinformation on social media (and maybe mailers are coming soon) with this claim — candidate X “voted to stop a bill that included $6 billion in funding for public schools and teacher pay raises, more money for school security, and an end to the STARR test”.

Is this the Truth?

Although I am not known to be a well-behaved woman, out of respect for the Governor, I will refrain from calling it what it should be called and politely call it “misinformation.”

The bill Abbott and the school choice operatives are referencing is HB 1, which was an education omnibus bill that finally made it to the House floor in the final days of the fourth Special Session. This bill had several major pieces to it, including much-needed funding for schools and teachers, and it included an education savings account (ESA) voucher program.

Rural Republicans, who have been vocal in their opposition to vouchers for various reasons with the backing of their constituents, built a coalition and collected the votes necessary to pass an amendment to HB 1 that removed only the voucher piece from the bill. The now famous “Raney Amendment” passed 84-63.

Let’s be clear. The twenty-one Rural Republicans voted for an amendment to take vouchers out of HB1. They did not vote to “stop the bill.” They did not vote to kill HB 1. HB 1 was still very much alive with increased funding for districts and teachers. Plus, without the voucher piece, the bill was supported by well over the needed majority to get the bill passed off the House floor and sent to the Governor to sign, which would have then property-funded school districts and teachers.

The problem?

Gov Abbott was the reason the bill didn’t move forward. Abbott had insisted that vouchers and funding would be tied together and that he would veto the school funding bill if he didn’t get his vouchers.

Following the vote on the Raney amendment, the bill without vouchers was sent back to the committee by the bill’s author. In the hours and days following the vote, as the pro-voucher crowd worked to re-group, the author of the bill decided that the bill would not be back on the floor because Abbott would veto it.

For Abbott, the plan all along was to kill the funding if the House could not get vouchers passed.

So again, to be clear, Abbott and the school choice coalition are responsible for killing the funding for teachers and districts, not the Rural Republicans.

There’s so much more to this story, and the Texas Tribune’s in-depth article helps to fill in all the blanks and the history of what has happened leading up to the Fourth Special Session, which includes comments from legislators close to the situation.