Education bills filed after governor formally declares special session

Gov. Greg Abbott at a speaking engagement on April 4, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
Gov. Greg Abbott at a speaking engagement on April 4, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott has formally called state lawmakers into a special legislative session beginning next week, which opened the door for bills to be filed.

For now, he asked only to extend operations of the Texas Medical Board and other entities set to expire this fall, after lawmakers failed to do so during the regular session that ended May 29.

Once that’s passed, Abbott has promised to include 19 other priorities for the 30-day special session.

By 5 p.m. Monday, lawmakers had already filed 83 bills.

“We are not bound to pass the bills the governor wants,” said Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin. “So if we file some other bills that are not what the governor likes, but if they fit within the call then that’s our prerogative.”

Rep. Hinojosa has filed several bills, including three geared toward education. The first offers up one solution on where to come up with the money to give teachers a $1,000 raise.

“A school district would not have to pay tolls on a road for their school buses, and that money could be used for a teacher pay raise,” said Rep. Hinojosa.

The other two bills focus on school finance reform, giving property wealthy districts like Austin ISD a break on their recapture payments.

Other bills filed by other lawmakers include school choice for special needs students, which is also on the governor’s list. “It seems like a quarter of the agenda that’s coming up for the special session is an attack on educators,” said Michael Balderas, a teacher from Edinburg in South Texas.

He is one of 850-plus Texas teachers under one roof this week in Austin for the Association of Texas Professional Educators annual summit. The group has always been outspoken about school vouchers.

“It’s not about the kids anymore,” said Balderas. “It’s about taking the money that public education has and placing it in vouchers and privatizing education.”

Stephanie Stoebe is a teacher in Round Rock who will be spending the rest of her summer lobbying at the capitol for ATPE.

“What is going to be cut for school districts to pay their teachers this thousand dollar magic raise?” asked Stoebe. “I don’t understand.

The group is also fighting to keep payroll deductions in tact as a way to pay their ATPE membership dues. Gov. Abbott has said he wants to “prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars” to collect union dues.

The legislature will reconvene July 18 at 10 a.m.

Other priorities on the governor’s priority list include reviving a failed transgender “bathroom bill,” anti-abortion proposals and stricter limits on local property tax collection, tree ordinances and building permits.

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