EDITORS NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated State Rep. Caroline Harris was “present not voting” on the amendment, when she in fact voted against it. State Rep. Cody Harris was “present not voting.”
As the Texas House debated the state budget appropriations, an amendment to the state’s budget prohibiting funds from being used for school choice programs was adopted in a vote of 86-52-11.
The amendment does not mean anything in terms of policy or law—the budget still must pass the school choice–friendly Senate—but it does create conflict with Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Senate, where support for school choice is strong this legislative session.
Gov. Greg Abbott made school choice one of his emergency items earlier this year, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick included it among his legislative priorities. School choice is also a priority of the Republican Party of Texas.
Parents across Texas are calling for lawmakers to expand their children’s education options, as State Rep. Nate Schatzline (R–Fort Worth) reminded lawmakers during the debate in defense of school choice.
“I believe that parents should be empowered in the state of Texas,” said Schatzline.
However, 23 Republicans joined Democrats, while nine Republicans were present but didn’t vote.
Republican State Reps. Steve Allison (San Antonio), Trent Ashby (Lufkin), Ernest Bailes (Shepherd), Keith Bell (Forney), DeWayne Burns (Cleburne), Travis Clardy (Nacogdoches), Drew Darby (San Angelo), Jay Dean (Longview), Charlie Geren (Fort Worth), Justin Holland (Heath), Kyle Kacal (College Station), Ken King (Canadian), John Kuempel (Seguin), Stan Lambert (Abilene), Brooks Landgraf (Odessa), Andrew Murr (Junction), Four Price (Amarillo), John Raney (Bryan), Glenn Rogers (Graford), Hugh Shine (Temple), Reggie Smith (Van Alstyne), and David Spiller (Jacksboro) joined Democrats.
These are the nine Republicans who stood aside: State Reps. Brad Buckley (Salado), David Cook (Mansfield), Mano DeAyala (Houston), Frederick Frazier (McKinney), Cody Harris (Palestine), John Lujan (San Antonio), Shelby Slawson (Stephenville), Kronda Thimesch (Lewisville), and Ed Thompson (Pearland).
Money appropriated by this Act may not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, including an education savings account, tax credit scholarship program, or a grant or other similar program through which a child may use state money for non-public primary or secondary education.
Although the amendment passed the House, it can be stripped from the budget during a conference committee between the House and Senate, when they will reconcile both chambers’ budgets into one state budget for final passage.