AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A special committee of House lawmakers on Thursday is considering a massive educational package that would establish an education savings accounts program while improving public school funding.

The hearing shows the first signs of progress for education savings accounts in the House across four special legislative sessions. Gov. Greg Abbott this week called lawmakers back into a rare fourth special session after the House failed to pass his plan for “school choice.” His plan would use state money to subsidize private education expenses for K-12 students.

The House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment invited six separate panels to testify, each representing various experts and advocates from public schools, charter schools, and ESA advocates. As of noon, the hearing was still on the first panel. Public testimony will begin after all six expert panels have concluded, setting up lawmakers for a very long day that could last until midnight.

Democrats on the panel began the hearing with strong opposition to any legislation that would establish an ESA program.

“This is our Alamo,” State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said. “Sometimes compromise is not a good thing… their ultimate goal is to replace public education with private, Christian schooling.”

House Bill 1 would offer $10,500 per child for families to cover the costs of private school or homeschooling. The governor has long advocated for the idea, arguing it will allow families to choose the best educational option for their children.

In addition to the ESA program, the bill would improve funding for a wide swath of public school needs, including increasing the base per-student funding $540 and giving classroom teachers a $4,000 bonus.

Rep. Ken King, a panhandle Republican, asked the first panel of public school advocates whether they would take that deal — significant funding in return for an ESA program.

“No,” HD Chambers with the Texas School Alliance said, calling that deal “offensive” and comparing it to “hostage-taking.”

“The Texas School Alliance cannot be bought,” Chambers said.

This coverage is ongoing. Check back for updates throughout the day and follow @RyanChandlerTV on X for the latest.