Gov. Greg Abbott Threatens To Veto Pared-Down School Choice Bill, Warns Of Special Sessions

May 15, 2023- Gov Gregg Abbott has stated Sunday that he would veto a toned-down version of a bill that offers school vouchers in Texas and threatened to call a legislators back for special sessions if they don’t “expand the scope of school choice” this month.

Senate Bill 8, authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would significantly roll back voucher eligibility to only students with disabilities or those who attended an F-rated campus. Currently this means that less than a million students would be eligible to take part in the voucher program.

Abbott has stated that the revised version of the bill does not provide the state with a meaningful “school choice” program. Since the start of the legislative session, Abbott has shown his support for earlier proposals of the bill that would be open to most students. The governor also said he has had complaints over the new funding for the bill, saying it gives less money to special education students. It also would not give priority to those of a lower income household, who “may desperately need expanded education options for their children,” he said.

The centerpiece of the original Senate Bill was education savings accounts, which work like vouchers and direct state funds to help Texas families pay for private schooling.

The Senate approved version would be open to most K-12 students in Texas and would give parents who don’t want to use public school systems up to $8,000 in taxpayer money per student each year. Those funds could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring. However, that idea has faced an uphill climb in the House, where lawmakers signaled their support last month for banning school vouchers in the state.

Last week, state Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, chair of the House Public Education Committee, wrote a version of the Bill where children would be eligible only if they have a disability, are “educationally disadvantaged” — meaning they qualify for free or reduced lunch — or attend a campus that has received a grade of D or lower in its accountability rating in the last two school years. A child would also be eligible if they have a sibling in the program.

About 60% of Texas 5.5 million students are eligible for free or reduced lunches and children who are in special education account for roughly 12% of the Texas education program. Also, roughly 7% of all school campuses graded received a D or lower but were labeled “not rated” because of coronavirus interruptions.

Last week, the chamber denied Buckley’s request to meet in order to vote the new version of the bill out of committee, signaling that there was still deep skepticism.


Author: Ethan Klein

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