AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and the new Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen held a rare, if not unprecedented joint news conference Wednesday morning outside the Governor’s Mansion.
The Governor said they were united to solve a voter mandate: increasing state funding for public schools while lowering property taxes. “It’s something we have to get done.”
“The issue of school finance is the issue this session,” said Speaker Bonnen.
“If the three of us are aligned that we’re going to accomplish a mission and pass legislation, it happens,” Lt. Gov. Patrick added.
WATCH FULL NEWS CONFERENCE HERE
Earlier this week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced lawmakers will have $119.1 billion to spend during the 2020-21 biennium, an 8.1 percent increase from the current 2018-19 budget.
The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker didn’t discuss specifics and they said it will still be up to state legislators to agree on how much money to spend on public education.
They agreed the state must increase pay for teachers who boost student performance.
Governor Abbott said, “We want to reward our teachers especially those who are delivering results. We want to address the teacher retirement system.”
Bonnen said teachers should not be forced to become administrators to earn higher salaries. “We all agree the path to more money in education should not be out of the classroom. We must keep the best teachers in the classroom.”
Patrick said, “We need more math teachers, more science teachers, more elementary school teachers, more reading teachers, so I think this is the session of teachers.”
The three leaders insisted they will remain focused on these core issues.
The Lt. Governor was asked if he would have a bathroom privacy bill be brought to the floor again this session and he said it was settled, and is unnecessary.
“The truth is the purpose of that legislation was to stop school districts from forcing boys and girls to share showers and locker rooms, and that stopped,” Patrick said.
During the regular and special legislative sessions two years ago, former Speaker Joe Straus rejected bathroom privacy legislation, saying it was bad for Texas businesses and citizens.
Patrick said those who keep talking about it want to stir up the past.