Legislation to expand parental choice in education has experienced yet another setback in the Texas House, as the clock ticks on the legislative session in Austin.
Passed by the Senate over a month ago, Senate Bill 8 by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe) would fund education savings accounts at $8,000 per student a year and provide a reimbursement of $10,000 to rural school districts with fewer than 20,000 students for each student who withdraws from public school.
In addition to creating ESAs, Senate Bill 8 would expand parental rights by standardizing the district grievance process, requiring consent for the administration of any psychological tests, providing transparency of instructional materials, and prohibiting teaching on sexual orientation or gender identity.
While the bill has stalled for over a month in the House, a new version—known as a committee substitute—is being proposed that would further limit the number of students the bill would apply to as well as remove the parental protections on radical gender ideology in school curriculum.
Even this further watered down version is having issues in the House.
According to House rules, committees must provide a minimum of three days’ notice before holding a meeting to conduct business.
When it comes to passing bills out of committee toward the end of the session, however, it is a common practice for the House to suspend that rule regularly and unanimously in order to allow committees to hold brief last-minute meetings to move legislation.
On Wednesday evening, State Rep. Brad Buckley (R–Salado), the chair of the House Public Education Committee, made a motion to allow the committee to meet that night, presumably in order to move SB 8 out of committee and send it to be placed on a calendar.
State Rep. Ernest Bailes (R–Shepherd) objected to the motion, resulting in a rare vote on whether or not to allow the committee to meet.
That vote failed on a margin of 65-76.
The vote is just the latest sign that the Texas House may not be ready to accept any school choice proposal.
Last month during consideration of the state budget, the House voted 86-52 to prevent state funds from being used on any school choice programs.
School choice remains a legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas, as well as the signature priority of Gov. Greg Abbott, who has toured the state for several months promoting the issue.
Notably, Bailes—who led the latest crusade against school choice—was endorsed by Abbott in 2022.
After the vote, the Senate bill’s author took to Twitter to reaffirm his commitment.
I remain committed to the Texas Parental Bill of Rights, because lawmakers know that Texans overwhelmingly support school choice. This session is a once in a generation opportunity to unleash the potential of education freedom, and I am confident there is still time to empower…
— Brandon Creighton (@CreightonForTX) May 11, 2023
With less than three weeks left in the legislative session, however, time is beginning to run out for school choice. A hearing was later scheduled for Monday, May 15, for the House Public Education Committee to consider SB 8.
The legislative session ends on May 29.