(The Center Square) – In budget deliberations on Thursday, the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives voted to ban state dollars from funding vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and other school choice programs.
They passed an amendment doing so, one of 350 filed and voted on April 6.
After the Texas Senate passed a parental rights and school choice bill, including a state-funded ESA program, the House passed the budget amendment, ensuring no state funds would be used to fund it or any similar programs.
Amendment 45, filed by state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, which had six cosponsors, including four Republicans, states, “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 nonpublic primary or secondary education.”
The amendment passed by a vote of 86 to 52, with 24 Republicans voting in favor of it and 10 Republicans who voted “present.”
According to the recorded vote, the 24 Republicans who voted with Democrats against funding ESAs were Reps. Steve Allison, Trent Ashby, Ernest Bailes, Keith Bell, DeWayne Burns, Travis Clardy, Drew Darby, Charlie Geren, Justina Holland, Kyle Kacal, Ken King, John Kuempel, Stan Lambert, Brooks Landgraf, Andy Murr, Angelia Orr, Four Price, John Raney, Glenn Rogers, Hugh Shine, Reggie Smith, David Spiller and Gary VanDeaver.
The 10 Republicans who voted “present,” were Reps. Brad Buckley, David Cook, Mano DeAyala, Frederick Frazier, Cody Harris, John Lujan, Shelby Slawson, Kronda Thimesch, and Ed Thompson.
Gov. Greg Abbott has been touring the state promoting his school choice agenda, including a statewide ESA program. In his 2023 State of the State address, Gov. Abbott listed education freedom as an emergency item for the Legislature to pass.
His plan includes increasing the number of special needs students who can apply for the ESA program, “expanding school choice options through ESAs to all Texas students,” and amending the Texas Constitution to “bolster a parent’s right as the primary decision maker in all matters involving their child.” His plan also requires schools to better inform parents of their rights, expands parental access to curriculum and books, reforms the grievance process, and strengthens health consent requirements, all measures incorporated in SB 8, which passed the Senate.
At a recent school choice event in Odessa, Abbott said, “It does not matter what city you live in, parents are in charge of their children education. The reality is that not every school has the flexibility to meet the unique needs of every student. We as a state have an obligation to ensure that every child’s needs are met, and we do that by empowering parents to choose the education setting that is best for their child. Our job is to make sure school choice and education freedom becomes a reality. Together, we will ensure parents remain the primary decision makers in the education of their child for generations to come.”
However, not all Republicans appear to agree. Thirty-four already voted against a major tenant of his legislative priority: school choice.