Vouchers

Voucher bills simply divert public funds away from neighborhood public schools to private institutions or companies and are objectionable for a number of reasons.  Historically in the United States of America, public funds have been used for the common good and when they are appropriated to inure to the benefit of private citizens it is deemed as immoral and inappropriate.


 

87th Texas Legislature Voucher Update

Several vouchers were introduced into the legislature this session but very few got any traction. While several were sponsored, only a few voucher bills moved forward and vouchers were stripped from the bill or the bill was killed through a variety of mechanisms.

Vouchers in some form or another have been legislated in Texas since 1995. To date, none have passed.

The Coalition for Public Schools was formed as a result of the first vouchers proposed in the Texas State Legislature. We continue to fight vouchers as an attack on our Texas public schools.

 

 

Texas House Bills

HB 3 – Pandemic Response Bill – Did Not Pass

Early in the session a voucher was placed in HB 3, a pandemic response bill sponsored by Rep. Dustin Burrows. We worked the bill with the public education advocacy community and Rep. Burrows constituents in Lubbock. Within days, another member of the Coalition and I were invited into a conference with Rep. Burrows and informed by the representative that the voucher was removed from the bill. This bill made it through the House and Senate but died in conference committee.

HB 1015 – Microgrant Pilot Program for Special Needs StudentsDid Not Pass

HB 1015 would have provided a payment directly from the comptroller to the parent of an eligible child in the Houston school district. Eligibility was predicated on special needs but seemed relatively expansive in the bill. The bill failed to receive a hearing.

Texas Senate Bills

SB 27 – State Virtual School Network – Did Not Pass

This bill provided for an expansion of the Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN) and the use of the network by independent school districts and charter schools. This bill was considered a voucher because it removed the requirement that a student must attended a public school the previous year to enrolling in the TSVSN. Additionally, this bill allowed students the ability to enroll in schools outside of their attendance zone, setting up schools to poach students from one district to another and making it harder to ensure quality control. Members of the Coalition continually worked on this bill to remove the voucher but it kept “popping back in”. This bill did not get out of the Senate.

SB 1968 – Family Educational Relief Program – Did Not Pass

The bill would have created the Family Educational Relief Program which would allow parents of eligible private or home-schooled children to receive reimbursements for educational expenses from the state. The money would be distributed by Certified Educational Assistance Organizations which would be required to be non-profit (501(C)3) organizations. The program is funded by allowing entities a credit against the premium tax liability to the state. The total amount of tax credits for the program is capped at $200 million. This was considered a tax credit voucher bill since there is an overt transference of taxpayer funds to private entities. Although Sen. Paul Bettencourt, the author of the bill said that opponents of the bill did not show up to testify because they had a “morally bankrupt argument” and made assurances that the bill would pass, the legislation did not get out of the Senate.  The companion bill – HB 4537 did not receive a hearing.

SB 1698 – Scholarship Tuition Tax Credit – Did Not Pass

This bill allowed for the creation of up to 25 educational assistance organizations (EAO’s) that would provide scholarships for students and their parents to go to private schools. Businesses and other entities would receive a tax credit for donations to the EAO. Students would not receive more than 75% of the state average per pupil expenditure or 50% if the student’s parents are above 175% of the income level to determine free and reduced lunch status. This bill was considered a “tax credit tuition” voucher because it resulted in taxpayer funds going directly to a non-profit, private entity. The bill did not receive a hearing.

SB 1716 – Special Education Supplemental Education Services – Passed

While listed in this update as a finance bill (since it has a fiscal note of $30 million), SB 1716 initially contained a voucher – paying money directly from the state to the parent(s) of a special needs child. Through an outcry from the Coalition and the rest of the advocacy community, the bill was amended to include the Admissions, Review, Dismissal (ARD) committee of the local school district in the service selection process.

SB 1716 gives certain special education students enrolled in a public school $1,500 to purchase supplemental educational services. Funding will be managed through educational service centers.


House Bills – 87th Texas Legislature

House Bill 4537 (Middleton) – “Relating to the establishment of the Family Educational Relief Program and an insurance premium tax credit for contributions made for purposes of that program.”

This bill would create the Family Educational Relief Program which would allow parents of eligible private or home-schooled children to receive reimbursements for educational expenses from the state. The money would be distributed by Certified Educational Assistance Organizations which would be required to be non-profit (501(C)3) organizations. The program is funded by allowing entities a credit against the premium tax liability to the state. The total amount of tax credits for the program is capped at $200 million. The Coalition for Public Schools considers this a tax credit voucher bill since there is an overt transference of taxpayer funds to private entities.

House Bill 1015  (Toth) – “Relating to an education microgrant pilot program for certain children with special needs and other educational disadvantages.”

 HB 1015 provides a payment directly from the comptroller to the parent of an eligible child in the Houston school district. Eligibility is predicated on special needs but seems relatively expansive in the bill. Because this bill provides for a direct transfer of taxpayer funds to a parent, the Coalition of Public schools considers this bill a voucher.

Senate Bills – 87th Texas Legislature

Senate Bill 27 (Taylor)  – “Relating to the state virtual school network; changing a fee.”

This bill provides for an expansion of the Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN) and the use of the network by independent school districts and charter schools. The Coalition for Public Schools considers this a bill with a voucher in it because it removes the requirement that a student must attended a public school the previous year to enrolling in the TSVSN. Additionally, this bill allows students the ability to enroll in schools outside of their attendance zone, setting up schools to poach students from one district to another and making it harder to ensure quality control.

Senate Bill 1698 (Paxton) – “Relating to a franchise or insurance premium tax credit for contributions made to certain educational assistance organizations.”

 This bill allows for the creation of up to 25 educational assistance organizations (EAO’s) that would provide scholarships for students and their parents to go to private schools. Businesses and other entities would receive a tax credit for donations to the EAO. Students may not receive more than 75% of the state average per pupil expenditure or 50% if the student’s parents are above 175% of the income level to determine free and reduced lunch status.  The Coalition for Public Schools considers this bill a “tax credit tuition” voucher because it results in taxpayer funds going directly to a non-profit, private entity.

Senate Bill 1968 (Bettencourt) – “Relating to the establishment of the Family Educational Relief Program and an insurance premium tax credit for contributions made for purposes of that program.”

 This is the companion bill to HB 4537 and is identical to it. The bill would create the Family Educational Relief Program which would allow parents of eligible private or home-schooled children to receive reimbursements for educational expenses from the state. The money would be distributed by Certified Educational Assistance Organizations which would be required to be non-profit (501(C)3) organizations. The program is funded by allowing entities a credit against the premium tax liability to the state. The total amount of tax credits for the program is capped at $200 million. The Coalition for Public Schools considers this a tax credit voucher bill since there is an overt transference of taxpayer funds to private entities.

Senate Bill 1716 (Taylor) – “Relating to a supplemental special education services and instructional materials program for certain public school students receiving special education services.”

 SB 1716 provides an account for parents of special education students to purchase supplemental services outside of the purview of the school district. Eligible parents would receive funds from the comptroller to purchase outside services from Texas Education Agency approved vendors. Because this bill provides a direct payment of taxpayer funds to private citizens, the Coalition for Public Schools considers it a voucher.

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Senate Bills – 86th Texas Legislature

SB 380 (Hall) – This bill would have removed the cap on the number of online courses that may be taken by a student. The Coalition for Public Schools registered opposition and delivered a letter to Senate members opposing this bill.  The bill was left pending in committee.

SB 947 (Campbell) – This bill would have removed the requirement that students of those serving in the military must have previously attended a public school in order enroll in online virtual courses. The Coalition for Public schools registered opposition and delivered a letter to Senate members opposing this bill.  The bill was left pending in committee.

SB 1455 (Taylor) – The introduced version of this bill essentially allowed the Commissioner of Education to grant a charter to a private vendor or private entity to operate a full-time virtual school, removed the substantially similar course prohibition, removed the requirement that students must have previously attended a traditional public school, and removed the cap on the number of virtual courses allowable. The committee substitute for the bill removed the charter grant provision but still retained the other provisions.  The Coalition registered opposition and delivered a letter to Senate members opposing the bill. The bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House Public Education Committee. We testified against this bill on May 7 (44:16). The bill was left pending in committee.

House Bills – 86th Texas Legislature

HB 429 (Shaheen) – Would have removed the prohibition from offering a virtual course when a district offers a substantially similar course. Would have removed the cap on the number of virtual courses that can be taken. I testified against this bill on April 16 (22:06) on behalf of the Coalition for Public Schools. The bill was left pending in committee.

Senate Bills – 85th Texas Legislature

SB 3 (Taylor, L.)- SB 3 is a voucher bill that includes both an education savings account (ESA) and an insurance premium tax credit.  Click here to find out more about SB 3.

SB 542 (Bettencourt)- SB 542 is a voucher bill that provides for a credit against an entity’s insurance premium tax liability.  Click here to find out more about SB 542.

House Bills – 85th Texas Legislature

 HB 1184 (Bohac) – HB 1184 is the companion bill to SB 542.  It provies for a credit against an entity’s insruance premium tax liability.  Click here to find out more about HB 1184.

HB 1335 (Simmons) – HB 1335 is a voucher bill that provides an education savings account (ESA) for students with a disability.  Click here to find out more about HB 1335.

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For more information contact Dr. Charles Luke at charlesluke43@gmail.com or by phone at 940-768-8594.