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Texas Senate Votes for Parental Choice in Educational Opportunities for Our Children

March 30, 2017

AUSTIN – Senate Bill 3, authored by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), passed the Texas Senate by a vote of 18-13 today. The legislation begins school choice for Texas schoolchildren through two opportunities – an Education Savings Account (ESA) program and a Tax Credit Scholarship program.

These programs would be available to 17 million people within the most populated 17 counties (roughly 4 million school aged children) in Texas and provide a “parent trigger” for counties with a population under 285,000 people. The “parent trigger” would establish criteria for voters in exempted counties to call for an election to determine if their school district should opt in to a school choice program.

“We have some excellent public schools in Texas, but we also have some schools that aren’t providing the best opportunity for their students and even the best of our schools don’t meet all the needs of all students,” said SB 3 author and Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor. “This legislation will level the playing field for Texas parents who are desperate for more choices, but are limited because of their financial resources.”

The ESA program, to be administered by the State Comptroller, will provide parents with funds for the education needs of their child including private school tuition, private tutoring, online learning or other qualified options such as instructional materials and courses.

The Tax Credit Scholarship program, to be administered by a non-profit educational assistance organization selected by the State Comptroller, provides scholarships to eligible students from private businesses. Eligible students may receive a scholarship for up to 75% of the average statewide school districts’ daily attendance or a scholarship up to $500 for academic support programs at a public school. Texas special needs children would be funded at a higher level of 90%.

“A child’s future should not be predetermined by their zip code,” stated Senate Republican Caucus Treasurer Van Taylor (R-Plano). “Choice leads to competition; and allowing parents the ability to use a portion of their tax dollars to send their child to a school of their choice will give students more opportunity while improving our education system.”

Echoing Senator Eddie Lucio’s (D-Brownsville) statement on SB 3 in bi-partisan agreement, “This parental choice bill is for Texas parents to help find the best school for their children,” concluded Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston).

The two programs are estimated to potentially have 30,000 to 70,000 children participate at their parent’s choice. It should be noted one year of growth in Texas public schools is 86,000 students.

Senate Bill 3 has been widely supported by Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas).

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