School choice legislation in the House has hit a new milestone, after being voted out of committee.
This marks the first time school choice legislation has passed a committee in the Texas House.
House Bill 1 by State Rep. Brad Buckley (R–Salado) would create an education savings account of approximately $10,500 available to any child. Unused funds do not roll over from year to year. A child who is homeschooled will qualify for $1,000.
The program will be limited by funds allocated by the legislature every two years. ESAs will be awarded based on family income levels.
Students who accept an ESA will be required to take a state assessment test or a national norm-reference test. Those who do not perform satisfactorily on the assessment two years in a row will be disqualified from the program
The plan also includes teacher pay raises. In year one, full-time teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians will earn a $4,000 bonus, while part-time employees will earn $2,000. In year two, the continuation of pay increases will be set by local districts using the state’s basic allotment process.
The bill was heard on Thursday in the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment and was approved in a 10-4 vote on Friday.
Despite the billions of dollars in teacher pay raises and additional school funding, the legislation was still opposed by teacher unions.
Those voting against moving the proposal forward included Democrat State Reps. James Talarico (Pflugerville), Gina Hinojosa (Austin), Barbara Gervin Hawkins (San Antonio), and Harold Dutton (Houston).
State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer (D–San Antonio)—who chairs the House Democrat Caucus—cautioned members that the vote was merely to move the bill forward in the process to receive an up-or-down vote by the full House.
That vote could come as soon as next week. The fourth special session is slated to end December 6.
The Senate, meanwhile, has repeatedly passed school choice legislation, including its own version on Thursday night.