Texas Republicans are pushing for a new law that could provide taxpayer money to families wishing to spend it on private school tuition, potentially endangering public schools. However, the legislation has faced staunch opposition from both rural Republicans and Democrats in the House, who are opposing the bill due to their support of public schools. The resistance has been so strong, that the Governor had to conduct a series of rallies titled the “Parent Empowerment” campaign, to promote his plan in rural areas across the state.
As per the current package put forth by the Senate, every family can receive up to $8,000 from the taxpayer’s money to use for private school tuition or other educational needs like books or tutoring. Although back in 2017, there was similar legislation proposed, it got turned down due to the lack of private schools in rural areas of Texas. Regardless, the Senate’s new legislation indicates it is becoming increasingly popular.
Having said this, there are still some concerns regarding private schools being able to only choose students they want to enroll, meaning that all students would not be given the opportunity to change schools. This has led critics to worry that funds collected from public schools would be robbed, leaving the education sector struggling financially, while supporters of the bill have stated that it is critical for families to have the ability to choose the best educational settings for their children.
The bill’s author, Houston Senator Brandon Creighton states that the bill aims to serve 50,000 to 62,000 students, which could cost around $500m during the state’s two-year budget cycle. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the education savings accounts available would be prioritized for students in schools with lower academic ratings by the Texas Education Agency.
However, rural lawmakers who oppose the bill are worried about the lack of private schools in their area, as well as public schools often having the additional role of being community hubs and employers. Some also believe that it is dangerous if the public schools that serve students in rural America and Palestine start saying that the “voucher system” won’t hurt them the way it does other districts since not supporting vouchers as a whole is a better solution.
Texans are divided when it comes to the issue of “parental rights,” with some thinking that it’s merely a guise being used to push school choice into the curriculum matter, while some believe that attaching school choice to involvement with public education could tip the scales. While Governor Abbott tours the state and promotes the school choice plan at Christian private schools, he’s coupling the rhetoric with the idea that parents seeking “freedom” from “woke agendas” need a way out.
Although the bill may find success in the Senate, it is likely to face opposition from the House, led by Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont, who has not made the bill a priority issue. While it is unclear whether the bill can advance, with the first public hearing on the bill scheduled for Wednesday, most experts believe the ultimate success of the bill will depend upon the lawmakers’ ability to convince rural Republicans to unite with urban Republicans in support of the bill.