Abbott May Find Dems Special Session Push
to Be No-Win Deal as Private School Champ

Capitol Inside
May 13, 2024

Texas House Democrats sought to regain some relevance on Monday when a majority of them implored Governor Greg Abbott to call an emergency special session in an attempt to head off budget woes that individual school districts are facing as a consequence of neglect by the Republicans in Austin last year.

With State Rep. Jon Rosenthal of Houston spearheading the effort, 39 House Democrats endorsed an election-year special session in a letter that they fired off to Abbott this morning.

"We urge you to bring the Legislature back to Austin so we can fulfill our Constitutional duty to provide suitable funding for public education. Let's effectively fund our Texas Independent School Districts so that they can provide the quality education that our students deserve." the Democrats said.

The Democrats said the Legislature earmarked $5 billion for public education during the 2023 regular session but never actually spent the money in a two-year spending plan. The Democrats informed the Republican governor that the state has a projected budget surplus of $18 billion that's expected to swell beyond $21 billion by the time the next session begins in January.

GOP leaders and lawmakers apparently were bluffing last year when they claimed to support a significant boost in public school funding last year before allowing the proposal to die from inaction instead. The Republicans in the House and Senate made it clear that private schools were a higher priority. Abbott has confirmed that with an unprecedented crusade aimed at eliminating House Republicans who wanted to put public education first with their opposition to his prized school choice bill.

"Texas public schools are facing serious budget challenges from inflation, historic underfunding, and unfunded mandates that will drive drastic budget cuts in ISDs across the state," the Democrats argued in the communique to the governor. "These issues arise from the state's failure to improve school funding since 2019."

The Legislature approved a record budget boost for public schools in 2019 in a move that prompted then-Republican Speaker Dennis Bonnen to declare the regular gathering that year as the super bowl of sessions. Bonnen - like Abbott - has been trying to help GOP challengers in primary battles with former colleagues who voted with Democrats to kill the governor's plan for private school subsidies.

The Republican majorities in the House and Senate were content to let public education in Texas go two more years without new funding that most agreed the schools here needed despite an unprecedented state budget surplus last year.

The new special session push puts Abbott in a no-win position as an issue that could backfire if and when he's on the ballot for re-election in two years if he spurns the Democrats now or simply ignores them. But the odds for a special session at some point in the near future appear somewhere between slim and none nonetheless as an event that could ruin any hopes that Abbott still might harbor for a selection as Donald Trump's running mate this fall.

A special session this summer would have no effect on Speaker Dade Phelan's chances in a primary runoff election that's just 15 days away. But it could give Phelan a boost in his bid for a third term in the dais if he played his cards right.

more to come ...







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