A voucher by any other name
Date Posted: 2/26/2015 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE
With two more weeks available for bill filing, a number of private school voucher proposals have already been filed for consideration by the 84th Legislature. It is possible that some of the bills may be heard in committee as early as next week. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates. Although not termed expressly as "voucher" legislation, these are some of the bills we've seen so far this session that are attempts to fly school privatization schemes under the radar by characterizing them as tax relief or "savings" bills: Senate Bill (SB) 276 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-San Antonio) would create a "taxpayer savings grant program" that is supposed to result in "state savings and government efficiency." It is the bill that most closely approximates a private school voucher in the traditional sense by offering parents reimbursement of tuition paid for their children to attend private schools. The reimbursements would come out of the state coffers and would amount to the lesser of the actual tuition or 60 percent of the state's average per-pupil expenditure in the public schools. Campbell's bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee but not yet scheduled for a public hearing. SB 623 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) also promises public funding for children to attend private pre-kindergarten programs. It calls for school districts to contract with and pay private schools to operate the districts' pre-K programs. Hancock's bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. House Bill (HB) 1043 filed by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) with an assist from Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) calls for "a franchise or insurance premium tax credit for contributions made to certain educational assistance organizations." Its companion bill, SB 642, was filed in the Senate by freshman Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The House version of the bill has not yet been referred to a committee but is likely to be sent to the House Ways and Means Committee. Those "assistance organizations" described in the bills are private entities that would receive tax credits from the state in exchange for providing scholarships for students to attend public or private schools. HB 895 by Rep. Rick Miller similarly offers a franchise or insurance premium tax credit for contributions made to certain educational assistance organizations. It has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which typically hears tax bills. Despite being characterized by their authors as tax relief measures or savings grants, all of these bills are proposals that ATPE considers to be vouchers; as such, we oppose these bills that would ultimately results in a loss of funding to the public schools.
Related content: Read ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey's recent op-ed, "Vouchers Make for Bad Public Education Policy."
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