The Texas Senate Education Committee voted along party lines to approve a bill that would fund private schools in the state, signaling a major victory for the GOP-led Legislature. The bill, which was championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, now moves to the full chamber for a vote.
The legislation, which is comprised of several provisions, is centered around the creation of Education Savings Accounts (ESA) that would provide families with up to $8,000 to cover private school tuition, textbooks, and other supplies, such as uniforms. However, the bill has been met with criticism from conservative groups who argue the funds should be available to all, regardless of school enrollment status.
Governor Greg Abbott, a vocal supporter of the bill, has argued that it is necessary to provide parents with the financial tools needed to make the best education choices for their children. Opponents of the bill remain concerned that ESAs would divert money away from public schools and fail to cover the full cost of private schools, which are not obligated to accept all students.
The debate has been further complicated by the inclusion of “parental rights” provisions. These additions to the bill have been met with contention from groups that oppose the teaching of certain topics in schools, such as race, gender, and sexuality.
Ahead of the Senate committee’s vote, Governor Abbott held a rally in Denton to garner support for the legislation. His efforts have been met with both praise and trepidation from rural Republicans, who worry about the transparency of taxpayer dollars and the lack of private schools in their districts.
The bill’s ultimate success or failure will likely rest on the coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans who are against diverting state money away from public schools. With the vote of the full Senate pending, the outcome of this pivotal piece of legislation remains uncertain.