House Committee on Public Education Hears Voucher Bill

AUSTIN, TX — Yolanda Merritt has been a special education teacher at Spring ISD for 15 years.

“I’m for students who can’t speak. I’m for students who are learning how to eat and dress,” Merritt said.

She worries that the school district will lose money if the so-called school choice program goes through.

“Already, our school district is undermined by a lack of funding.With funding, there are many other things we can do,” she said. “It breaks my heart to want public funds to go to a particular group of students.”

What you need to know

  • A number of public school teachers testified Tuesday against the so-called school choice program.allow parents to use their tax dollars to send their children to private and charter schools
  • Gov. Greg Abbott is an advocate for the program, but so far it’s only been endorsed by the Texas Senate
  • Low-income households are eligible for $10,300.Wealthy children and children already in private school receive half that amount.
  • Critics fear the program will harm public schools.Proponents say it offers many Texas students the opportunity to receive the best education available

Merritt was one of many public school teachers who visited the Capitol on Tuesday to testify against a bill that would allow parents to spend their tax dollars to send their children to private or charter schools. It’s a priority for Gov. Greg Abbott, but so far only the Senate has shown support. The House last week voted against funding programs like vouchers. But both know that the fight isn’t over until it’s over.

Rep. James Frank, Republican Wichita Falls defends his bill In front of the House Public Education Committee. $500 million will be used to create an Education Savings Account to be managed by the Inspector General.

“It’s good for parents. It’s good for kids. And it’s good for schools,” Rep. Frank said.

Low-income households are eligible for $10,300. Wealthy children and those already attending private schools could receive half that amount. However, not all lawmakers are in favor of this idea.

“Why don’t we use the funds we have to make sure we create an environment for all children?” asked D-Round Rock Rep. James Talarico.

San Antonio Rep. Steve Allison said many private schools cost more than $10,300 a year.

“It’s a bit of a hassle. If you have a gap, how do you fill that gap, especially for disadvantaged or underprivileged, low-income families? That’s a big difference in making up,” Rep. Allison said.

Kevin O’Brien came to the Capitol from Cedar Park. He signed up to testify on the bill. He said the money would enable his daughter, Mary, who has Down syndrome, to attend private school. After the pandemic, she transferred from public school in Leander to a charter school in Georgetown. O’Bryan and his wife felt that charter her school was a better environment for Mary. She still wants to send her to a nearby private school, but it’s not possible.

“I want more options for my daughter, Mary, who has special needs,” he said. I’m working too, but I’m still making it clear that I’m under $100,000, which helps me give my daughter another choice in her education.”

O’Brien hopes that he has been given the opportunity to use his tax money for his daughter’s education.

“And if I could take time off to come here, I’m sure many other fathers would want to come here, too,” he said.

Nathan Kanin, a communications strategist at the Children’s Federation of America, also supports the bill.

“The purpose of the education system is to educate children, not to endorse any particular system,” he said.

Cunneen is the product of Florida’s School Choice Program. His family earns about $7,000 a year for his education, he said.

“For the 11 years I was growing up in Florida, I was a beneficiary of private schools,” Kanine said. “My school choice completely changed my life. It’s the only reason I went to college and was the first in my family to graduate from college. We believe every student and every family in Texas deserves the same opportunity.”

Last week’s House vote to ban voucher funding within the budget sends a strong signal that these bills are not going anywhere. small group of lawmakers).

“That amendment is not yet law. The Senate has passed a compelling school choice bill,” Kanin said. “With the support of Texas leaders, we hope to complete school selection this year.”

But Merritt wants the $500 million to go instead for teacher pay raises, more resources, and licensed psychologists on public school campuses.

“Some of the things we could do with that money would be unimaginable,” Merritt said.

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