Texas Voucher Bill Fails, Supporters and Opponents Gear Up for Future Battles

According to the Texas Tribune, the Texas House of Representatives recently voted against school vouchers, dealing a blow to Governor Greg Abbott’s top legislative priority. While public educators and advocates view this vote as a forceful rejection of the voucher program, proponents of school vouchers, including private and religious school educators, remain committed to fighting for vouchers, both in the Texas Legislature and at the ballot box.

The vote in the House, which occurred on November 16, resulted in a 84-63 decision to remove education savings accounts from House Bill 1. This education bill included provisions for teacher pay raises and increased funding for public schools. With the special legislative session coming to an end, it seems unlikely that a voucher program will be passed in time.

Despite efforts from Governor Abbott to persuade voucher skeptics, the majority of rural Republican lawmakers remained opposed to the program. Only four GOP representatives changed their stance on vouchers, while public school advocates gained a new vote against vouchers from Representative Ed Thompson.

Advocates against vouchers felt confident about defeating the program after speaking to rural Republican lawmakers throughout the past few months. The sentiment among these lawmakers hasn’t changed much since the initial vote in April.

The defeat of the voucher program in the House was seen as a victory by public school advocates who were concerned about the diversion of funding from public schools. However, this defeat also means that public schools won’t receive additional funds for teacher pay raises and inflation adjustments. Governor Abbott has stated that he will veto any public education funding bill that does not include vouchers.

Due to underfunding, many school districts in Texas have been forced to operate with deficit budgets, leading to the closure of cafeterias, cuts to extracurricular activities, and even school shutdowns. With public school funding likely to wait until the next legislative session in 2025, some districts may have to rely on community support and fundraising efforts to meet their financial needs.

While waiting for increased funding is considered an acceptable price by some for the defeat of vouchers, public school advocates are gearing up for the next legislative session and supporting pro-public school candidates in the upcoming primary elections.

The vote against vouchers was seen as a positive development by many, but frustrations remain about the continued stalling of public school funding. Teacher pay raises alone may not solve the teacher shortage problem in Texas, as other issues such as low morale and the politicization of education also need to be addressed.

Voucher advocates remain determined

Despite the setback in the House, advocates for school vouchers are still committed to passing education savings accounts, whether in this legislative session or the next. They are also prepared to support pro-voucher candidates in the upcoming primary elections.

According to Laura Colangelo, executive director of the Texas Private Schools Association, her organization is ready to engage in the debate once again, awaiting signals from Governor Abbott about the next steps. Jeremy Newman, vice president of policy and engagement at the Texas Homeschool Coalition, stated that his group is tracking anti-voucher Republicans who are not seeking reelection and preparing to support pro-voucher candidates in those districts.

The home-schooling community in Texas is split on the issue of vouchers, with some in favor of financial support for home schooling costs and others concerned about government oversight. However, education savings accounts could be crucial for families who want to switch to home schooling but lack the resources to do so.

Tracy Hanson, principal of Oak Creek Academy, a private special education school, expressed disappointment over the vote against vouchers, as many families are in need of alternative learning environments but cannot afford them. Rabbi Jordan Silvestri, head of Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, highlighted the importance of vouchers in stabilizing tuition and increasing access to alternative forms of education.

Overall, advocates for school vouchers remain undeterred and plan to continue fighting for their cause in future legislative sessions and elections.

Disclosure: Texas Classroom Teachers Association and the Texas Private Schools Association have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism.

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