Two bills were passed by the Texas Senate and one bill was passed by a House Committee relating to Gov. Greg Abbott’s priority of establishing an education savings account just days into the fourth special session.
Senate Bill 1, which passed with an 18-10 vote, establishes a $500 million education savings account that will allow parents to pay for private school tuition using taxpayer funds, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Families looking to send their children to private schools would be eligible to apply and receive up to $8,000 for tuition, supplies, and other related expenses, per Community Impact.
Similarly, home-schooled families could receive up to $1,000 to help support the cost of supplies as well.
The bill also includes provisions that state low-income and disabled students will receive priority on the funding, and districts with under 5,000 students will receive state funds to help with enrollment.
Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), the author of SB 1, said the bill is similar to the previous legislation passed by the Senate during the third special session.
“Tonight, we’re empowering Texas students with more choices when it comes to education,” he said, per the DMN.
“In doing this, students win, and when students win, Texas wins.”
Despite Creighton’s optimism about the bill, some members of the House have voiced disapproval.
Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) said the bill is “unsustainable” and a “fiscally irresponsible voucher plan.”
“If we start going down this path of using public resources to fund private schools, it’ll be the first step in a death of our public school education and our great state as we know it,” he said, per the DMN.
Senate Bill 2 was also passed with a 27-1 vote and would give teachers in the state a pay raise.
This bill would provide teachers in districts with less than 5,00 students a one-time payment of $10,000, while those in districts with more than 5,000 students would receive $3,000, according to Community Impact.
These payments would be permanently implemented for teachers during the 2024-25 school year.
Another education savings bill was passed on Friday morning by the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment.
House Bill 1, which passed by a vote of 10-4 in the committee, would allow families to receive up to $10,500 for private school tuition and supplies, per The Texas Tribune.
Additionally, the bill would increase teacher salaries and the per-student spending by the state in public schools from $6,160 to $6,700.
The House Calendars Committee will be the next to address the bill. From there, the committee will determine when it will be discussed by the full House.
Despite passing through the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment, HB 1 still has an uphill battle to be passed by the full House.
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) criticized the bill and said the committee likely only passed it to hear the opinions of the full House.
“Today’s vote is a reflection of a desire for the entirety of the House to have a final up-or-down vote on the voucher piece of this bill,” he said in a statement, per the DMN.