AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday projected confidence that his push for education savings accounts will pass the Texas legislature, following months of intractable disagreements between the Governor and some reluctant lawmakers in his own party.
“As we begin this final push, we are on the one-yard line, a good place to be,” Abbott said at an event arranged by the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. “I am committed. However long it takes, that race is going to continue. I will not stop until we get ESAs is passed in the state of Texas.”
Unstoppable force, meet immoveable object.
“Nothing changes,” San Angelo Republican Drew Darby told Nexstar on Wednesday. “Now’s not the time for timidity… Now I think we need to make sure all our positions are known and then stand by our position and never retreat. If I’m here in November, December, January, February, March, I’ll be here. This is one of those things that I feel passionate about. And we’re not just going to shrink from the responsibility.”
Darby is one of about two dozen rural Republicans who have so-far blocked Abbott’s plan from passing the House. He said he will not be convinced until a plan includes more funding for public education and guardrails that ensure accountability for private schools that accept state money.
“I’m not even going to consider it until we properly fund the education. And then even if we do fund education, and we fund the subgroups, special needs kids, that sort of thing, then I’m just not going to turn the money loose. I’m gonna want accountability,” Darby said.
Abbott signaled to lawmakers, however, that he is demanding those items in reverse order.
“I want to make sure that we provide a carrot to make sure this legislation gets passed. The legislature has already set aside $4 billion to add to more funding for public education in the state of Texas. But I wrote the agenda for the special session, as only addressing ESAs,” Abbott said. “Once ESAs are passed, I will put on the legislative call for full funding for public education, including teacher pay raises for teachers across the state of Texas.”
Just after the clock passed midnight on Thursday, the Texas Senate passed their $500 million plan for education savings accounts, offering $8,000 to eligible families for each child taken out of public school. The House has far more opposition to court, however, and is moving much slower on this issue. Their version of an ESA bill has not yet been deliberated publicly.
Both chambers are back in session on Monday. The governor has promised to call the legislature back into session if they cannot come to a compromise and deliver an ESA program this month.