Shortly before lawmakers were due to vote on the Texas Senate’s school choice proposal the legislation was replaced with a substantially weaker version.
Championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and authored by State Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), SB 3 seeks to establish vehicles for state education funding known as Education Savings Accounts that would allow state money to follow children to a public, private, or homeschool of their choice.
The legislation was scheduled to be debated and voted on Thursday afternoon but an hour before the vote lawmakers were given a new version of the legislation that would substantially limits access to the program.
First up is a massive carve-out that removes ESA’s as an option for children and parents in rural areas—a move designed to buy support from State Sens. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) and Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo).
Next is a change that would sharply limit access to ESA’s in even urban areas by restricting student eligibility and capping enrollment.
Other proposals are currently being deliberated as well.
Conservatives should resist efforts to dilute and diminish the proposed expansion of parental choice in education. As written, SB 3 was a substantive and serious step in the right direction and lawmakers should resist efforts to weaken the legislation.
Update: A few hours after this article was published, the Texas Senate passed the weakened legislation by a vote of 18-13.