As educational choice has become a priority issue for many Texans following the state Legislature, Attorney General Ken Paxton has released an advisory opinion stating that there is no constitutional barrier to implementing school choice in Texas.
The opinion came in response to a request by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), who chairs the Senate Education Committee and is the author of Senate Bill 8, the chamber’s priority school choice bill.
SB 8 would create education saving accounts, individual state-funded accounts of $8,000 per child that families can use to pay for education expenses.
Specifically, Creighton asked Paxton if such a program would violate the Texas Constitution’s “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits public funds from being sent to religious institutions, such as parochial private schools. In his opinion, Paxton said that provision of the state constitution is in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects institutions from discrimination based on religious affiliation.
“Texas parents should have the right to choose the best school for their kids, and every Texas child deserves the opportunity to attend a good, safe school where they can learn and thrive,” said Paxton. “Today I issued a legal opinion which informs the Texas Legislature that there are no constitutional barriers to enacting school choice in Texas. It’s time to empower Texas parents and provide additional educational opportunities so every Texas child can reach their dreams.”
Paxton’s opinion was applauded by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has prioritized school choice legislation in the Senate.
“Attorney General Paxton’s opinion that school choice is legal and constitutional in Texas is not surprising, but it is still great news for all Texans,” said Patrick. “All Texas children deserve an education that best fits their needs, and parents should not be forced to send their children to schools that they do not believe are best for their child. The Attorney General’s legal opinion is grounded in the United States Constitution and is common sense. Republicans, Independents and Democrats overwhelmingly support school choice.”
SB 8 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 23.