Governor Greg Abbott announced today that he is expanding the agenda for Special Session #3, focusing on education reform in the state of Texas. The expanded agenda will now encompass critical aspects of school finance, including teacher pay raises, school safety, and special education, in addition to universal school choice.
The decision to expand the agenda comes after productive discussions with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan, where they reached an agreement on the issue of school choice. Governor Abbott emphasized that the new legislation will create an Education Savings Accounts program with universal eligibility for all Texas schoolchildren and will be entirely voluntary for families and schools to participate. Students who choose to participate in the program will be eligible for approximately $10,400 per year in their Education Savings Account, which will be administered by an education organization overseen by the Texas Comptroller on behalf of the participating parents and students.
Furthermore, the legislation will provide additional funding for Texas public schools, including teacher pay raises, while staying within the constitutional spending limit. This bill will also codify recommendations made by various educational task forces, including the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, the Commission on Virtual Education, and the Commission on Special Education Funding. One significant change involves phasing out the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) Test, to be replaced with an improved assessment system.
Governor Abbott stressed that the expansion of the agenda represents the next step in delivering school choice to Texas parents and students, allowing them the freedom to choose the education that best suits their learning needs. He expressed his anticipation in working with both chambers of the Texas Legislature to pass this legislation into law.
Key aspects of the legislation to expand school choice in Texas include:
- Universal eligibility for all K-12 schoolchildren in Texas.
- Voluntary participation – parents, students, and schools choose whether they want to participate.
- Students will receive approximately $10,400 per year in their Education Savings Accounts.
- Phasing out the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) Test.
- Students participating in the program will have the option of taking a norm-referenced test or STAAR test to ensure good educational outcomes.
- Billions more in funding for Texas public schools for the biennium, including teacher pay raises and school safety.