AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday voted to prohibit state money from funding private school vouchers or education savings accounts.
The move is a setback to one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities to provide “school choice” with state-funded private school tuition subsidies.
The House approved State Rep. Abel Herrero’s amendment to the state budget on a bipartisan 86-52 vote. The amendment prohibits the budget from funding “a school voucher, including an education savings account, tax credit scholarship program, or a grant or other similar program through which a child may use state money for non-public primary or secondary education.”
“These are public funds for public schools as is outlined and stated specifically in the Texas Constitution,” Rep. Herrero said. “And for that, members, please stick with our public school teachers, our neighborhood schools, and our public charter schools and vote for this amendment.”
Just before the chamber voted on the amendment, Chair of the House Public Education Committee Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) moved to table the amendment, arguing the issue would be best debated in committee. The House voted against his motion to table.
“I feel like this process with this amendment turns things really in the wrong direction. It is the proverbial cart before the horse,” Chairman Buckley said. “So with that I will respectfully oppose and speak against this amendment.”
In a split-screen legislative impass expected to last late into Thursday night, the Texas Senate is projected to easily pass Gov. Abbott’s “Parental Bill of Rights.”
That’s what top Republicans are dubbing Senate Bill 8, a novel bill for Texas’ public education system that would create “education savings accounts” (ESAs).
Through those accounts, the state would spend half a billion dollars over the next two years to subsidize some families’ educational costs. Parents who wish to transfer their children from public school to private school would be eligible to receive $8,000 from the state to do so.
Abbott has traveled around the state advocating for the “school choice” initiative, expending significant personal capital and betting the session on the issue.
That bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee on a partisan 10-2 vote. It will pass on the Senate floor, but senators were still questioning the author as of 5:30pm on Thursday evening.