The special session of the 85th Texas Legislature begins on Tuesday. And for those thinking the division between the House and Senate might have subsided, think again.


During a news conference Thursday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick laid out a plan to tap the Texas lottery to pay for teacher bonuses. He wants to spend $700 million each year in lottery revenue to give veteran teachers a boost.

Patrick says the lottery raises about $1 billion yearly for education. His plan would force school districts to use most of that on pay bumps for teachers with at least six years of experience, and retirees with more than 20 years.

The proposal would require a change to the Texas Constitution, meaning voters would have to approve it.


But Patrick also called out House Speaker Joe Straus at least 15 times during the news conference.


“I want to emphasize this is a serious plan, which is different from what Speaker Straus laid out during the regular session and continues to talk about,” Patrick said. “That was nothing more than an education Ponzi scheme.”


What Straus and fellow Republicans championed was a plan to pump $1.6 billion additional dollars into public schools.


Public school advocates also backed the House plan.


They aren’t so sure about what Patrick is proposing and argue the state needs to better invest in public education.


“Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s sudden, newfound interest in teachers and retired teachers is as hollow as the governor’s $1000 teacher pay raise because neither is willing to make a genuine commitment to investing state funds in public education,” Noel Candelaria, Texas State Teachers Association President, said.


Gov. Greg Abbott has called on lawmakers to increase teacher pay by $1000 annually during the special session, but there’s no extra state budget funding.


Gov. Abbott applauded Patrick’s plan. “My office has been working with lawmakers in both the Senate and House these past six weeks, and if these items do not get passed, it will be for lack of will, not for lack of time,” Abbott said.


Patrick also said he supports all 20 bills the governor has put on the call and jabbed Straus for not.


“We’ve already passed 10 of those out of the Senate. They were killed by the Speaker,” Patrick said. “I believe the House can pass 20 for 20 as well if they ever get a chance to vote for them on the floor.”


Straus put out this statement in response to Patrick’s plan:

“It’s encouraging to see the Lieutenant Governor’s newfound focus on school finance reform. Nothing could be more important in this special session than beginning to fix our school finance system so that we improve education, keep more local dollars in local schools, and provide real property tax relief, just as the House overwhelmingly approved in the regular session.”


The feud between the leaders of the House and Senate that boiled over during the regular session has only been enhanced with comments and appearances during their short break.


Both have blamed each other for killing bills and causing a special session.


Patrick’s Ponzi scheme comment Thursday follows a similar jab from Straus during the regular session when the upper chamber used an accounting trick to delay a payment to the state highway fund to balance the budget.

He called it “cooking the books” and criticized Senators for not wanting to tap into the $12 billion Rainy Day Fund to help in lean times.


The special session begins Tuesday.


Posted by Karina Kling