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Voucher legislation takes center stage in House Public Education Committee

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Texas Legislature Privatization | Vouchers

Date Posted: 4/13/2023 | Author: Tricia Cave

The focus was on private school vouchers Tuesday, April 11, 2023, as members of the House Public Education Committee considered six bills in a lengthy session that stretched into the early morning hours.

The hearing came after a dramatic series of events during the House’s April 5 budget debate. House Public Education Committee Chairman Brad Buckley (R–Salado) put forth a motion to table the anti-voucher Herrero amendment, an amendment that traditionally is taken as a signal of House opposition to vouchers. Buckley argued that his committee would be debating voucher bills the following Tuesday and he would like to hear the public’s viewpoints on the issue before the House weighed in on the subject. But Buckley’s motion to table was voted down, and the Herrero amendment passed 86-52. See ATPE’s recap of the budget debate here.

This set the stage for Tuesday’s hearing, in which the committee tackled a variety of voucher bills. ATPE was well represented in the hearing, with several members coming to testify and register opposition to many of the bills being heard. ATPE State President Stacey Ward, ATPE State Vice President Jayne Serna, Region 13 ATPE Director Stephanie Stoebe, and ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter all testified on behalf of ATPE in opposition to House Bill (HB) 4340 by Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls), which would provide Education Savings Account (ESA) vouchers for parents of current public school students or students entering kindergarten to use on private school tuition or educational services. 

ATPE also testified against HB 619 by Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano), HB 3781 by Rep. Jacey Jetton (R–Richmond), and HB 4807 by Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian). Each of these bills creates some form of a voucher . ATPE opposes all forms of vouchers, including tax credits, scholarships, and ESAs, as laid out in our 2023 Legislative Priorities.

ATPE also opposed HB 4969 by Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler), billed as a supplemental services grant. The grant would send funding to parents of public school students to pay for services and materials beyond what schools currently pay for. Examples might include costs associated with clubs such as 4H, fees for extracurriculars, or costs for after-school programs such as YMCA. During his testimony on the bill,  Exter offered to work with the author and committee to “clean up” the bill.

ATPE supported House Joint Resolution (HJR) 182 by Rep. Cody Harris (R–Palestine), a proposed constitutional amendment that would protect a parent’s right to choose the school their child attends, as well as ensure oversight of schools that receive public funds.

Additionally, HB 100 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) was voted favorably out of committee. HB 100 is one of the Speaker’s priority bills this session. The bill changes school funding from attendance-based to enrollment-based, as well as changes the minimum salary schedule to a three-tier rather than a 20-step system.  The provisions of the bill continue to change daily, and ATPE continues to work with the author to improve the provisions around educator pay. The committee also passed HB 114 by Rep. Ed Thompson (R–Pearland), which allows schools more flexibility in punishing students who bring e-cigarettes on property.

The committee is expected to meet again Tuesday, April 18.


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