July/August 2017 Church & State - July/August 2016

Texas House Of Representatives Twice Defeats Senate’s Private School Voucher Legislation

  AU admin

The Texas House of Representatives twice recently defeated the state Senate’s attempt to advance private school voucher legislation.

The Senate, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), first approved a voucher program earlier this year, but the House not only refused to take up the measure, it inserted a provision in its budget bill that would block public funds from being spent on private education.

“For several months, it seemed like Patrick’s voucher program was dead,” wrote Dena Sher, AU’s assistant legislative director, on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog. “But in a strange turn, just before the end of [the] legislative session, a Senate committee added a voucher program for students with disabilities to a popular school finance measure… It was an aggressive effort to make the House choose: either take the voucher plan or kill the school financing bill. With that amendment, the bill went from popular to toxic.”

The House refused to approve the Senate’s voucher amendment, and said it would agree only to a bill that prohibited the spending of public money for private schools. The Senate declined to meet with the House to work out a compromise.  Patrick declared the entire bill dead – killing not only the voucher spending, but also a $1.5 billion infusion for the Texas public school system.

That should have been the end of the matter, at least until the Texas Legislature meets again in 2019, but Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a special 30-day legislative session in July with an agenda of 20 items – including vouchers.

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