AUSTIN, TX - Texas Senate Bill 3, which addresses voucher programs for schools, passed in a 18-13 vote on Thursday. Lawmakers made several last-minute changes to the legislature to gather enough votes for it to pass.
The bill reroutes millions of dollars from public schools to families who prefer private education or home-schooling.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who was in Lubbock Thursday but declined an interview request, issued a statement on the bill's advancement to the House.
"School choice is the civil rights issue of our time. Texas is one of 20 states that does not have a school choice program and Senate Bill 3 will finally change that.
"Senate Bill 3 will provide educational options to almost 4 million students including 134,441 who are currently in failing schools. ESA's will provide parents with funds to pay for the educational needs of their child including private school tuition, tutoring and online courses. Tax Credit Scholarships also provide financial assistance to parents as well as up to $500 for academic support in a public school. Both programs make disabled students a priority.
"A parent trigger has been added to Senate Bill 3 to allow parents in rural areas an opportunity to participate in the program.
"A wide majority of Texans in every demographic group and both political parties support school choice. Making sure that every child has the opportunity to attend the school their parents believe is best for them is something the people of Texas elected us to do. I commend Senator Larry Taylor, for his leadership on this critical issue and congratulate him on the passage of Senate Bill 3."
Meanwhile, the Texas Freedom Network shared its disapproval of the bill, with a statement from President Kathy Miller.
"Dan Patrick couldn't get his Senate to support the voucher bill he wanted, so he took whatever he could get. But none of the changes made at the last minute in order to get the votes he needed change the fact that it is still a voucher bill. Voucher bills hurt public schools and hurt our kids. Texas is a voucher-free state because vouchers divert much-needed funding from neighborhood public schools to private and religious schools, they provide no accountability to taxpayers, they allow private schools to pick and choose the students they want to accept and they don't improve student performance. Texas has rejected vouchers for two decades. It now falls to the Texas House to continue that tradition and continue to work to provide the best education possible to every student in our state."
Lubbock Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Behrl Robertson, Jr., spoke to EverythingLubbock.com from Austin, where he fought against SB 3.
"I think it's almost another form of segregation," Robertson said, contradicting Patrick. "I just think it's bad policy."
"This has been proposed as a choice bill," Robertson explained. "I don't think it's a choice at all. We have a lot of choice in public schools, in fact in Lubbock, Texas we have almost 29,000 kids and almost 14,000 go to a school of choice, whether it's within our district, or district to district, or private school, or charter school, or homeschool."
Robertson said the district would lose money, to the tune of about $8,000 per student.
"I can lose one child from each of those campuses, 46 times $8,000, I can't reduce a dime (in costs), costing me (and the district) a tremendous amount of money," he stated.
SB 3 moves to the Texas House of Representatives, where it must pass before heading to the Governor's desk.
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