State legislators avert voucher debate in March 11 hearing on pandemic-related bill
Texas Legislature COVID-19 Privatization | Vouchers
Date Posted: 3/11/2021 | Author: Mark Wiggins
House Bill (HB) 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) was heard Thursday, March 11, by the House Committee on State Affairs. The bill includes broad provisions relating to state operations during a pandemic, and it garnered hours of testimony from a diverse group of witnesses. In its original version as introduced, HB 3 included establishment of a private school voucher program. A newer version of the bill discussed today, however, eliminates the voucher language.
As initially filed, the bill’s voucher provision would have forced school districts to redirect taxpayer dollars to pay third-party vendors, including for-profit companies and private schools. Under pressure from legislative colleagues backed by education stakeholders including ATPE, Rep. Burrows submitted a committee substitute for HB 3 Thursday that dropped the voucher language.
Neither Rep. Burrows nor the members of the committee made any mention of the excised voucher language when the author introduced his substitute bill during Thursday’s hearing. The rest of the bill includes language enumerating the powers of the governor during a pandemic, shielding businesses from liability related to COVID-19 exposure, and protecting gun ranges and firearms-related businesses, among other provisions.
The original version of HB 3 has not been the only voucher-related bill filed this session, but it was the first voucher bill scheduled for a committee hearing this session (before the voucher language was removed from HB 3). Educators must continue to be vigilant as other bills that could become vehicles for vouchers begin to move through the legislative process. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for the latest updates from the ATPE lobby team.
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