Texas House Votes to Prohibit State Funding for School Vouchers

The Texas House of Representatives approved a budget amendment that prohibits the use of state funds in school voucher programs, dealing a significant blow to Governor Greg Abbott and other advocates of school choice. This recent action comes the same day Senate Bill 8, a voucher-like program proposed by Gov. Abbott, is expected to receive a vote in the Texas Senate. School vouchers, including education savings accounts, are included in the amendment initiated by Representative Abel Herrero, D-Robstown.

The amendment received an 86-52 vote against school vouchers, despite Republican efforts to table it, with the vote showing that any voucher proposal faces an uphill battle in the lower chamber, even with increased support over the past two years. The amendment is a major disappointment for Abbott, who has spent the last two months promoting school choice throughout the state.

Brad Buckley, chair of the House Public Education Committee, made an attempt to table the amendment, arguing that his panel is set to hear school choice bills on Tuesday. However, the motion was rejected with a 64-71 vote, and an up-or-down vote ensued. In the end, 24 Republicans joined Democrats to pass the amendment, while several Republicans, including Buckley, registered as “present, not voting.”

Although there were 23 more votes against the amendment this time than the one made during the last legislative session, which Buckley also voted in favor of, the result still indicates that the House is far from gaining the majority support needed to pass such legislation if it were to make the floor.

Meanwhile, the Texas Senate is expected to approve Senate Bill 8, which would create a savings account that would allow parents who opt out of public school systems to receive up to $8,000 per student per year. The funds could then be used to pay for the child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring. The bill would also restrict classroom lessons and teacher guidance about sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and charter schools up to 12th grade.

Despite these pending pieces of legislation affecting gay and transgender Texans, including a bill that would limit the type of healthcare transgender children can receive, it is expected to receive initial approval from the Senate, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a long-time supporter of voucher-like programs, as the chamber’s leader.

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