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Abbott ties voucher passage to teacher pay, school funding

October 18, 2023 - 00:00
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Gov. Greg Abbott, just hours after the Senate initially approved a school voucher measure, said he would add teacher raises and increased public school funding to the ongoing special session agenda if the Texas Legislature passes his voucher plan, the Texas Tribune reported.

“I want to make sure we provide a carrot to make sure this legislation gets passed,” Abbott said of vouchers. “Once [education savings accounts] are passed, I will put on the legislative agenda full funding for public education, including teacher pay raises for teachers across the state.”

However, Democratic and rural Republican legislators remain opposed to vouchers, maintaining vouchers would drain funding for public schools, the Texas Standard reported.

“Every dollar that we spend on a voucher is going to be a dollar that is taken away from being able to invest in public education,” Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, said.

State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, called Abbott’s approach a “political threat.” He said most constituents in his district would find it a hardship to send their children to private schools because of the distance and cost.

“Most of my constituents, even with an $8,000 discount, the private school is probably so far away, they’re going to have to travel 30 or 40 miles to get to a private school,” Nichols said. “And they still won’t be able to afford the balance of what’s owed.”

The Senate bill initially approved would give families who opt for private schools $8,000 of public money each year.

Patrick: No reason to return PAC money

Lt. Gov Dan Patrick says he has no intention of returning $3 million in political contributions received from a political action committee whose leader met with an avowed Nazi sympathizer earlier this month, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Former state representative Jonathan Stickland, now head of the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, met with white supremacist Nick Fuentes for several hours, prompting a number of Republican lawmakers to donate money they received from the PAC to pro-Israel charities at the urging of House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.

Patrick and Phelan have been feuding for months, especially over the impeachment and ultimate acquittal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Patrick called on Phelan to resign after the speaker demanded he return the $3 million.

“I didn’t think even Dade Phelan would stoop this low,” Patrick said in a statement. “He has now absolutely hit rock bottom. His latest stunt is disgusting, despicable and disingenuous.”

Phelan pushed back. “I didn’t take $3 million from a PAC that associates itself with Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. That’s not my problem,” he said.

Two Texas congressmen oppose bullet train

Two Texas congressmen are trying to stop funding for a bullet train from Houston to Dallas, the Houston Chronicle reported. U.S. Reps. Jake Ellzey and Michael McCaul, both Republicans, have asked the federal Department of Transportation to deny federal funding for the project, announced recently as a collaboration between Amtrak and Texas Central Railroad.

The proposed route of 240 miles would have a travel time of 90 minutes – less than half the time it takes to travel by car.

“At its core, this project is intended to take land from American citizens and put it under the control of a Japanese company, which is itself subsidized using money from U.S. taxpayers,” the two congressmen wrote in part.

A number of Texas landowners have expressed concern about the route cutting through their farmland. “Landowners deserve to have their land rights protected against the unrealistic and financially infeasible rail project proposed to be funded through these applications,” McCaul and Ellzey said in their letter.

Only two Texas universities crack top 100

Only two Texas universities managed to crack the top 100 in the Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking, the Houston Chronicle reported. Texas A&M was ranked 38th, while Rice University came in at 64th. The University of Texas came in at No. 118, according to the rankings.

“To generate the rankings, the Journal partnered with research groups College Pulse and Statista to analyze a mountain of data, measuring everything from expected student salaries and years needed to pay for attendance to the quality of the school’s ‘learning-related facilities’ and on-campus diversity,” the Chronicle reported.

Twenty Texas colleges and universities made the top 400. Princeton University was ranked No. 1 overall.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress. com.