Capitol Update 3/8: An Insider’s Guide to Key Legislative Issues in Texas Public Education Policy

March 12, 2013 |

Flood of Bills as Legislature Hits Bill Filing Deadline

Several School Voucher Bills Among Them

The 60th day of the legislative session came and went on Friday with a tidal wave of last minute legislative proposals being filed. According to the Dallas Morning News, more than 2,300 bills were filed during the last week, with 763 filed on Friday.

Regrettably, a number of harmful school voucher bills were among them, including:

Tax Credit Voucher Bills

  • SB 23/SB 1410 by Senator Patrick (R-Houston)/Senator Paxton (R-McKinney)
  • SB 1015 by Senator Paxton (R-McKinney)
  • HB 3245 by Rep. Callegari (R-Houston)

While they vary slightly in their particulars and the labels attached to them, these tax credit voucher bills all share a common theme—they use a corporate tax credit against taxes owed to the State of Texas to divert state dollars to private schools through a private non-profit corporation that picks students to receive “scholarships” to attend private schools. Private schools get a government subsidy using taxpayer dollars, corporations get a tax break, a small handful of students are benefited, and the 5 million students in Texas public schools get nothing.

Direct Voucher Bills

  • SB 1575 by Senator Campbell (R-New Braunfels)/Senator Paxton (R-McKinney)
  • HB 3497 by Rep. Turner, Scott (R-Rockwall) (identical to SB 1575)

These bills, sold as “taxpayer savings grants,” are precisely the kind of voucher schemes that have been rejected by the Legislature numerous times. They are government subsidies for private schools using direct payments to reimburse private school tuition costs using taxpayer dollars.

It bears noting that the name alone suggests that these bills are focused on purported savings, and not on improving educational opportunity for the 5 million students in our Texas public schools.

Stay tuned for Raise Your Hand Texas Action Alerts on how you can help to fight school voucher proposals at the Texas Legislature!

Raise Your Hand Texas Builds Grassroots Support for Public Education

In an effort to spread our message beyond the Capitol dome, Raise Your Hand Texas held its first of several Grassroots Advocacy Luncheons this week in Lubbock. The luncheons are one of the many ways Raise Your Hand Texas is branching out to local communities in an effort to raise awareness about key public education issues.

This week’s luncheon in Lubbock was a huge success, with close to 200 community and business leaders in attendance. Dr. David Anthony, CEO of Raise Your Hand Texas, and Dr. Mike Moses, Former TEA Commissioner, spoke about how an informed and engaged public can influence public education policy, including school funding cuts.

Check out some of the great local media coverage of the event, including this piece by Fox 34 News and this article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Raise Your Hand Texas will host similar events in cities around the state, including Harlingen, Austin, Corpus Christi, Abilene, League City, Tyler and Amarillo. Stay tuned for more news on our grassroots campaign, including information about Raise Your Hand Texas Grassroots Ambassadors in each region and other opportunities to get involved.

House & Senate Education Committees Consider Many Bills, Pass Few

The House Public Education and the Senate Education Committees met last week and each covered a variety of bills, but left all but one bill pending (SB 185 by Deuell, relating to information regarding the number of public school students with dyslexia).

One bill of note heard by the Senate committee was SB 115 by Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), which would provide private school vouchers to students with special needs. Given the extensive legal protections for special needs students in public schools, including the development of an Individualized Education Plan and even paying for appropriate private alternatives where the student’s needs cannot be met in public school, Raise Your Hand Texas opposes SB 115. SB 115 provides a voucher for private schools, and is not limited to schools that provide a specialized educational and therapeutic program for special needs students.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Prioritizes Pre-K

The full House Appropriations Committee adopted the funding recommendations of the Subcommittee on Article III relating to the budget for public education on Thursday, March 7. Several members of the Appropriations Committee spoke up during consideration of the recommendations to note their particular interest in seeing Pre-K funding restored. Chairman Otto noted that there had been extensive discussion of that issue at the subcommittee level about how to restore that funding under the funding formulas rather than as a separate grant to make these funds less vulnerable to cuts in the future.

Stay Informed!

One of the keys to being an effective advocate for public education is staying informed. We hope you find our Capitol Update to be helpful. If so, forward it to a friend!

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