Texas House committee tries to vote on watered-down school choice bill

Members of the Texas House of Representatives were poised to vote on a very watered-down version of a school choice bill that was already passed by the Senate and being pushed by Gov. Greg Abbott. But the impromptu vote was shut down late Wednesday evening.

The new version of the bill would limit who could qualify for state money to use for private schooling.

The House Public Education Committee plans to call an impromptu meeting and vote Wednesday night to replace the Senate's so-called school choice plan with a plan of its own.

Gov. Abbott made school choice a priority this session, and failure to send a bill to his desk could result in a special session this summer. 

Last month, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 8 which creates what they call education savings accounts that are up to $8,000 per student of taxpayer money for families to pull their kids from public school and put them into private schools.


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It’s a plan that hasn’t been sitting well with members of the House, including some Republicans.

When it voted on its budget proposal, members voted down the use of public money for private education.

And now, it appears the House Public Education Committee wrote a new version of SB 8 limiting who could be eligible for the education savings accounts.

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Rice University Political Scientist Mark Jones says a watered-down version of the Senate bill will likely not satisfy Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Abbott, sending lawmakers to a special session this summer. 

"If the house can come close, then they're likely to accept that," Jones said. "But as the House puts in poison pills, which for them would be things like private schools having to take anyone who applies, not being able to exclude students with disabilities or with warming problems or discipline problems, then I think you'll see the lieutenant governor and governor balk and say we'll just deal with this in June or July."

Now, it does not mean there won’t be a hearing ever on SB 8 in the House, but the reason lawmakers blocked it Wednesday is because the vote would have happened without any public notice or hearing. 

The bill is still not likely to pass the House, almost ultimately signaling a special session.