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Senate Education Committee meeting, May 10, 2021

Texas Senate committee advances another private school voucher bill

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Texas Legislature Privatization | Vouchers Deregulation | Charter Schools Testing | Accountability

Date Posted: 5/10/2021 | Author: Mark Wiggins

A divided Senate Education Committee voted Monday evening, May 10, to advance another private school voucher bill to the full Senate. Members voted 7-3 to approve Senate Bill (SB) 1968 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston).

The bill would create an education savings account (ESA) voucher program, the likes of which the Texas Legislature and ATPE have consistently opposed because they divert public tax dollars away from public schools to private schools and for-profit vendors.

Members supporting the voucher bill were Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and Sens. Bettencourt, Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), and Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown).

Sens. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Beverly Powell (D-Bedford), and Royce West (D-Dallas) opposed the bill. Now that the bill has advanced out of committee, it must be supported by 18 senators before it can be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. ATPE urges senators to oppose this bill.

The committee also approved the following bills:

  • SB 2094 (committee substitute) by Chairman Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), which would decouple the STAAR test from graduation requirements and create accelerated learning committees for students unable to perform satisfactorily on the STAAR. ATPE supports the component of the bill that removes some high stakes from the STAAR, but we have been urging legislators to remove other problematic parts of the bill, such as a component that would provide funding tied to test results. Sens. Menendez, Powell, and West voted against the bill.
  • House Bill (HB) 699 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston), which would allow an excused absence for students experiencing a severe or life-threatening illness, such as cancer, or related treatment. The bill was approved unanimously and recommended for placement on the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar.
  • HB 773 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), which would add an indicator into the school accountability system for students who successfully complete a program of study in career and technical education (CTE). This bill was advanced in lieu of companion legislation, SB 194 by Sen. Powell, approved unanimously, and recommended for placement on the local and uncontested calendar.
  • SB 487 by Sen. Hughes, which would reduce oversight of charter schools by local governments by exempting them from local zoning rules that protect public safety. Sen. Menendez voted against the ATPE-opposed bill.
Before adjourning, Chairman Taylor announced plans for the committee to meet Tuesday to vote on its version of the clean-up bill for the massive school finance bill, HB 3, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019.


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