Senator may reduce scope of his school choice bill,
Amid concerns that he doesn’t have enough support in the Senate, the author of a bill that would divert some state money to help students pay for private school tuition, among other non-public education system expenses, is considering scaling back the measure.
According to a document received by some Capitol staff members, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, would limit the eligibility requirements of students. The changes appear to address concerns of lawmakers from rural areas where few private schools exist.
Students who live in counties with fewer than 50,000 people would no longer be eligible for state money through so-called savings accounts or tax credit scholarships unless a school board approves it.
Other changes being considered include:
Limiting eligibility for savings accounts to low-income students.
Reducing the annual cap for the tax credit scholarship from $100 million to $25 million.
Limiting eligibility to students who attended a Texas public school for one year prior.
The bill, as it was previously written, would allow kindergarten-aged students to qualify for the savings account even though they never attended public schools. By eliminating that provision, the bill might cost the state less money. According to the Legislative Budget Board, the current version of the bill would cost $107 million over the next two years.
Taylor, who did not respond to a request for comment, has said that the legislation would increase education options and improve the public education system by increasing competition. Creating more school choice has been a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.
More than 60 of the 100 or so people who testified on the bill this month were in favor, although 110 others registered against the bill but did not speak.
The bill has faced resistance from Democrats and lawmakers representing rural areas. State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo was the only Republican on the Senate Education Committee to vote against the bill last week.
Seliger told his colleagues that he was concerned that the bill would not hold private schools and other institutions that would benefit from the bill to the same accountability standards as public schools. He also said he was concerned that public money could go to support a Muslim private school that could teach anti-American principles.
The bill could be heard by the Senate in the coming days.
Earlier this month, protesters opposed to public money being used to pay for private schools gathered at the Capitol during the Texas Latino Educational Coalition’s Day of Action.