From The Texas Tribune: Texas House vote foreshadows tough road ahead for education savings accounts
School Finance Texas Legislature Privatization | Vouchers
Date Posted: 4/06/2023 | Author: Brian Lopez and Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune
"Texas House vote foreshadows tough road ahead for education savings accounts" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
The Texas House on Thursday approved a budget amendment opposing school vouchers — a major setback to Gov. Greg Abbott and other advocates for “school choice” this legislative session.
The vote comes the same day the Texas Senate is expected to vote on Senate Bill 8, which would create education savings accounts, the voucher-like program championed by Abbott. Watch the debates — and learn more about what’s at stake — below.
Texas House budget vote shows chamber still lacks appetite for vouchers
The House voted 86-52 for the amendment against school vouchers after an unsuccessful effort by Republican leadership to table it. The vote demonstrated that any voucher proposal still faces an uphill battle in the lower chamber, even if support has grown in the past two years.
The amendment, brought by Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, prohibits the use of state funds for “school vouchers or other similar programs.” That includes education savings accounts, the main vehicle for “school choice” that is advancing this session.
Abbott has traveled the state for over two months pitching school choice, pouring tremendous political capital into the push. His office did not immediately have a comment on the vote.
With the issue looming large, House leadership sought to short-circuit the amendment when it came up Thursday afternoon. Rep. Brad Buckley, chair of the House Public Education Committee, made the case to table the amendment, saying the chamber was putting the “cart before the horse” given that his panel is set to hear school choice bills Tuesday. But the chamber rejected his motion to table, 64-71, and proceeded to an up-or-down vote on the amendment.
Buckley persisted in trying to stop the amendment. He said he was "absolutely certain" his committee would have a "thoughtful discussion" Tuesday about the school choice bills and then decide whether to advance any to the floor.
"But I do believe that we should respect the process and make sure that we have the discussions in the proper order so that we can have good policy that leaves this body," Buckley said.
Ultimately, 24 Republicans joined Democrats to pass the amendment. Several Republicans, including Buckley, voted to stay neutral, registering as "present, not voting."
Buckley voted in favor of a similar budget amendment opposing school vouchers last legislative session, which passed 115-29. While there were 23 more votes against the amendment this time, it still signaled the House is far short of the majority support needed to pass such legislation if it were to make the floor.
Texas Senate expected to approve Senate Bill 8
In the Texas Senate, lawmakers will vote on Senate Bill 8, which would create savings accounts that would give parents who opt out of the public school system up to $8,000 in taxpayer money per student each year. These funds could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring.
[What you need to know about education savings accounts, the voucher-like program championed by Gov. Greg Abbott]
The bill also would restrict classroom lessons, school activities and teacher guidance about sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and charter schools up to 12th grade. The bill is one of several pending pieces of legislation that could affect the lives of gay and transgender Texans, including one that would restrict the type of health care transgender children can receive.
The bill is expected to receive initial approval from the Senate; Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the chamber’s leader, has long been a supporter of voucher-like programs.
Follow the live debate on SB 8 at the Texas Senate below:
This story will be updated; check back for details.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/04/06/texas-legislature-education-savings-accounts/. The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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