Texas lawmakers will return to Austin for their third special session of the year, which is expected to focus on education, Oct. 9.

In a letter obtained by multiple news outlets and shared on social media Sept. 29, Gov. Greg Abbott notified Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, and House Speaker Dade Phelan that the session will begin at 1 p.m. Oct. 9.

The governor said he would issue an official proclamation ahead of the session.

What you need to know

The special session is expected to tackle public school funding and school choice, or the use of state funds to help parents send their children to private schools.

Enacting school choice legislation was one of Abbott’s top priorities for the regular legislative session, which ended May 29. Lawmakers discussed multiple proposals, but after pushback from Democrats and rural Republicans in the Texas House, the bills did not pass.

The plan pushed by Abbott and other state leaders would create an education savings account program, which would help parents pay for private school tuition, books and more if they pull their children out of public school. The money would come from taxes paid to the state.

Abbott told reporters in June he was working with lawmakers to create legislation that would establish education savings accounts for private schools and increase salaries for public school teachers.

Lawmakers may also tackle border security measures during the special session, Abbott previously indicated. As of Oct. 2, Abbott has not issued a formal proclamation announcing the focus of the session.

The special session could last up to 30 days. If lawmakers do not pass school choice legislation during that period, they will be called back for a fourth special session, Abbott said during a Sept. 19 teleconference.

“I will keep fighting every step of the way until we have school choice in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

What they’re saying

Advocates of school choice say it offers more opportunities for parents who are unsatisfied with their public school but cannot afford to send their children to private schools.

“We are excited to see a new education savings account program for children in Texas that need and want a private school option,” Laura Colangelo, the executive director of the Texas Private Schools Association, told Community Impact. “We support prioritizing low-income children and children with special needs to make sure that all Texas children get the education that they need and deserve.”

On the other hand, opponents argue the plans would siphon money from public schools, particularly in rural areas. Texas ranked 41st in the nation for per-student funding in 2021, according to research from Education Week.

Some lawmakers and public education leaders have also expressed concerns that private schools will not be required to meet the same accountability standards as public schools.

“Public schools are required to follow state standards and teach the principles of democracy so that our students grow up to be ethical, contributing citizens in our great state and nation,” said Chris Moran, the vice president of the Texas Association of School Administrators, during a Sept. 29 news conference. “Private schools, meanwhile, get to pick and choose which kids they serve, what curricula they teach—and they are neither transparent or accountable to the communities which they [serve].”