Texas Vouchers Hit Dead End in Austin, as Another School Choice Bill Fails to Earn a Vote in State House
The Texas school voucher bill, which was widely debated and controversial, recently passed in the state Senate but is now facing challenges in the House. Rural representatives are skeptical that the bill would benefit families in less-populated counties.
During budget negotiations, House lawmakers voted to prohibit state funds from being used for private and religious schools through tax credit scholarships or education savings accounts, which the Senate bill had proposed.
The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Larry Taylor, had received strong support from Republican leaders in the state, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott. Taylor expressed disappointment that House members did not have the opportunity to fully understand the details of his bill before voting against it.
Rep. Dan Huberty, the chairman of the House Education Committee and a Republican from Houston, has openly opposed vouchers, stating that they are a solution in search of a problem. He believes that if private schools receive public funding, they should be held to the same standards as public schools.
The bill had initially encountered resistance from rural lawmakers who were concerned that their constituents would be paying taxes towards a program that their children couldn’t access due to a lack of options in their communities. Even after revisions that limited the bill to the state’s largest counties, some senators remained unsatisfied.
El Paso Democrat José Rodriguez, one of the senators who voted against the bill, criticized it for benefiting unaccountable private schools at the expense of the public school system. He believes that this bill would be detrimental to everyone except for those who want to weaken the public school system for ideological reasons.
At present, the Senate bill is sitting in the House where it is expected to face strong opposition, especially after the budget amendment vote against vouchers.
Besides logistical challenges, there is also an emotional resistance to vouchers in rural Texas towns. According to Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, these communities heavily rely on their local public school districts, and anything that negatively impacts these districts is seen as harmful to the community. Therefore, few representatives want to be perceived as supporting legislation that harms their community.