Across the Lawn – April 7, 2023

April 07, 2023  

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Raise Your Hand Texas has a front-row seat to the Capitol. From our vantage point, public education policy issues have never been more important, and this is why we must make every session a public education session.

ONE Thing to Do:

1. Contact House Committee on Public Education and Tell Them Vouchers Are Bad Policy for Texas 

There are four key pieces of legislation focused on vouchers that will be heard in the House next Tuesday, April 11. Please contact the members of the House Committee on Public Education next week and tell them voucher programs are bad policy for the state of Texas.  

Vouchers are a scheme that diverts public funds to private schools and vendors, and then continues to undermine traditional public schools and charters, teachers, and students. The lack of public accountability in any voucher program leaves the system open to mismanagement of financial resources and lets private education providers off the hook for poor student performance.

Contact Members of House Committee on Pubic Education

FIVE Things to Know:

1. House Votes to Prohibit Use of State Dollars on Voucher Programs

The Texas House voted (86-52) to adopt an amendment by Rep. Herrero to its version of the state budget, HB 1, prohibiting the use of state funds to pay for or support school vouchers, including an education savings account, tax credit scholarship program, or a grant or other similar program, through which a student could use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education. While the House approved this provision, it does not stop the Legislature from passing voucher legislation. 

The House then approved its two-year state budget, which includes $17.3 billion in property tax reductions, $5 billion in new funding for public schools, and $3.5 billion in funding to provide cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers.  

2.  House Committee on Public Education to Hear Voucher Bills on Tuesday 

The House Committee on Public Education will hear numerous voucher bills on Tuesday, April 11, including: 

  • HB 619 by Rep. Shaheen, relating to an insurance premium tax credit for contributions made to certain educational assistance organizations.
  • HB 3781 by Rep. Jetton, relating to special education in public schools, including the special education allotment under the Foundation School Program, an education savings account program for certain children with disabilities, and a grant program to reimburse public schools for the cost of certain employer contributions for retirees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas employed to teach special education.
  • HB 4340 by Rep. Frank, relating to the establishment of the Education Savings Account Program to allow certain children to use public money to pursue educational alternatives to public schools and an insurance premium tax credit for contributions made for purposes of that program.
  • HB 4807 by Rep. Harrison, relating to the establishment of the Texas Parental Empowerment Program and an insurance premium tax credit for contributions made for purposes of that program.

3. House Committee on Higher Education to Hear Aspiring Teacher Scholarship Bill

The House Committee on Higher Education will hear HB 4363 by Rep. John Kuempel. The bill creates a new scholarship program providing $12,000 per year for a student pursuing a degree at a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board-approved higher education institution and educator preparation program. The program’s aim is to significantly reduce the cost to enter the teaching profession.

For more on strengthening pathways into the teaching profession in Texas please read the new Learning Policy Institute report. 

4. Senate Passes Voucher Bill on Thursday with 18-13 vote

The full Senate passed SB 8 by Sen. Creighton with an 18-13 vote on Thursday. SB 8 creates a state voucher program that provides $8,000 to certain eligible students for tuition and fees, transportation, materials, assessments, and educational therapies. The bill provides school districts with fewer than 20,000 students “hold harmless” funding in the amount of $10,000 for each student using an Education Savings Account for five years. Numerous amendments were added during the floor debate, including a provision that would expand student eligibility to children who are members of a household with a total annual income that is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (10% cap of available positions). 

The Senate also passed SB 9 (teacher workforce) on Thursday with a vote of 22-9.

5. Upcoming Hearings

The House Committee on Higher Education is scheduled to meet at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, April 10 to hear numerous bills.

The House Youth Health & Safety, Select Committee is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, April 10 to hear numerous bills.

The House Committee on Public Education is scheduled to meet at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 11 to hear numerous voucher bills. 

Tags: herrero policy teachers vouchers

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