AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After two weeks of a tumultuous impeachment trial following nearly nine straight months of work for the part-time legislature, Texas lawmakers are preparing to return to the Capitol in October for a special session that will determine whether Gov. Greg Abbott can finally finish his push to send public dollars to private schools.
On Tuesday, Gov. Abbott is holding a tele-town hall with Christian faith leaders across the state to announce “School Choice Sunday,” an event in support of state-funded education savings accounts and expanded parental rights taking place on Oct. 15.
The Governor will discuss “how empowering parents with education freedom is the key to saving the hearts and minds of our children,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation said ahead of the event.
All year, the Governor has spent considerable time and political capital in support of his “school choice” initiatives – chief among them, a school voucher-like program to send eligible families $8,000 per child to subsidize private school expenses.
Yet even after months of stumping and arm-wringing, the Governor’s priorities faced bipartisan roadblocks in the Texas House. Some legislators believe the school voucher measure has no more support today than it did when it failed to clear committee months ago.
“My understanding is it still doesn’t have the votes,” Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, told Nexstar. “If the governor has the determination to call us back session after session after session, I think it’ll fail again and again and again, unless and until people finally collapsed to some sort of political pressure.”
Sen. Johnson’s chamber passed school voucher bills with ease this session. Senate Bill 8, dubbed the “Parental Bill of Rights” by its author Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), passed 18-13 in April.
The Legislative Budget Board estimated that legislation would cost Texas $4.9 billion through 2028. It failed to get out of the House Public Education Committee.
As Gov. Abbott prepares to meet with faith leaders to rally support for the measure on Tuesday, other Christian advocacy groups are pushing back on the faith-based justification for his plans.
Pastors for Texas Children has long been opposed to school vouchers programs. They lobby pastors across the state to get involved in the political process and make their opposition known in the legislature. Their executive director, Reverend Charles Johnson, believes a school voucher program would be detrimental to both children and churches.
“We have school choice now in the public school system, and to take that money and advance a private school choice option simply is unjust. What about the people who don’t have children in school? What about those who have no faith? Are we going to violate their civil liberties and constitutionally protected liberties by taking this money and and supporting a religious cause? It’s not right,” he said.
Gov. Abbott’s tele-town hall with the Texas Public Policy Foundation is scheduled to begin at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. Legislators expect the governor will call another special session in early to-mid October.
This story is ongoing. Check back here for updates.