AUSTIN,Texas (KTRK) -- A bill that would use taxpayer money to fund vouchers for parents who choose to transfer their children from public to private school passed the Texas Senate Thursday evening.
Senate Bill 8, sponsored by a number of lawmakers including Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has two main parts to it. The first is the private school vouchers, which would give up to $8,000 per student each year.
The money could be used to pay for a variety of educational expenses like tuition, textbooks, and tutoring. However, students who are already in private schools would not be eligible for these vouchers.
"This bill does not take a single dollar from public education. Instead, it empowers parents, creates competition for better outcomes, and expands opportunities for almost 6 million students in Texas schools," Creighton said during the Senate hearing on SB 8.
However, the Legislative Budget Board has previously said the opposite. Their fiscal note from March 22 stated, "Local education agencies would lose FSP (Foundation School Program) funding as a result of this bill, due to students leaving public schools to participate in the program."
This is a concern shared by opponents of the bill, including a teacher who talked to ABC13 at an unrelated protest of the Texas Education Agency's takeover of Houston ISD.
"There are good solid charter schools, but there are also a lot of charter schools that are going to be incentivized to start up and not necessarily doing it for the benefit of our children. So I am concerned that this will weaken the public schools that we currently have and make children vulnerable to predatory schools that aren't necessarily looking out for their best interests," Charlotte Haney, who teaches at Carnegie Vanguard High School, said.
The other part of the bill gives parents more control over what their children can learn in school. If passed, it would allow parents to opt out of certain topics, such as those pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also prohibit a third party from coming in to teach about these subjects.
About an hour before the Senate began discussing SB 8, the House voted 86-52 for an amendment to the state budget to prohibit public dollars from being used to fund these private school vouchers. It's a move that may be indicative of the bill's fate in the House.
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