Choice

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - Con­tact Julie Chang at 512-912-2565. Twit­ter: @juliechang1

said Thurs­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, flanked by sev­eral Repub­li­can House mem­bers, in­clud­ing Reps. Ja­son Isaac, R-Drip­ping Springs, and Ja­son Vil­lalba, R-Dal­las.

School choice pro­po­nents say the con­cept would ex­pand ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents who are at­tend­ing fail­ing pub­lic schools.

Op­po­nents of ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts say that they’re pri­vate school vouch­ers that are meant to strip money from cash-strapped pub­lic schools, in which par­ents al­ready have plenty of op­tions.

They say that the ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts have no ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures and only will ben­e­fit wealthy fam­i­lies, which pro­po­nents have dis­puted.

“We in no way fault the rep­re­sen­ta­tive for his in­ten­tion to help stu­dents who have ei­ther spe­cial needs or spe­cial cir­cum­stances,” said Monty Ex­ter, lob­by­ist with the As­so­ci­a­tion of Texas Pro­fes­sional Ed­u­ca­tors.

“We do think that he is mis­guided in think­ing that the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem isn’t the best place to serve those kids.”

School choice has been among the most di­vi­sive ed­u­ca­tion top­ics this leg­isla­tive ses­sion, with many con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans back­ing the idea.

The Se­nate bill — which doesn’t limit ac­cess to the sav­ings ac­counts and also in­cludes tax cred­its for busi­nesses that con­trib­ute to a schol­ar­ship fund for low-in­come stu­dents to at­tend a pri­vate school — has been given pri­or­ity by Pa­trick.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San An­to­nio, how­ever, hasn’t ex­pressed the same ur­gency to pass school choice leg­is­la­tion.

House Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dan Hu­berty, R-Hous­ton, said this week dur­ing a Texas Tri­bune event that he didn’t think the House would ap­prove school choice leg­is­la­tion this ses­sion.

“At the end of the day peo­ple up here and peo­ple out on the floor with me, they re­ally are pub­lic ser­vants. They want to do what’s right,” Sim­mons said.

“The chal­lenge can some­times come when they’re re­ceiv­ing pres­sure from some of the peo­ple who might be against this be­cause they have a false nar­ra­tive that be­lieves that if we al­low this, pub­lic schools will fall apart.”

JULIE CHANG / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

State Rep. Ron Sim­mons, R-Car­roll­ton, has pro­posed House Bill 1335, which would cre­ate a sys­tem of ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts for stu­dents who are at risk or who have spe­cial needs.

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