Lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives, including five representing Tarrant County, voted Friday to strip a voucher-like program from a wide-ranging education bill.
For months, Gov. Greg Abbott has called on lawmakers to pass education savings accounts, which would let parents use public tax dollars on their child’s private education. He and other supporters of the policy say parents should have a choice on where to send their kids to school.
But the program has faced opposition in the House from Democrats and some Republicans who say the program would hurt public schools.
Lawmakers on Friday began their debate on a wide-reaching education bill that, among other provisions, would give students about $10,500 in tax dollars each year for private school tuition or other expenses. Home-schooled students could get $1,000.
But early in the debate, Rep. John Raney, a College Station Republican, filed an amendment to have the section of the bill creating education savings accounts taken out of the bill. Arlington Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt was unsuccessful in an attempt to strike down the proposal through a procedural maneuver.
Ultimately, lawmakers voted 84-63 to remove the program from the bill.
The Tarrant County delegation’s vote fell largely on party lines, with its four Democratic members — Rep. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth, Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington, Rep. Salman Bhojani of Euless and Rep. Ramon Romero of Fort Worth — voting to strike the voucher-like policy. Joining them was Fort Worth Republican Charlie Geren.
Republicans Rep. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, Rep. David Cook of Mansfield, Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth, Rep. Nate Schatzline of Fort Worth and Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington voted to keep education savings accounts in the bill.
Abbott has previously said he’ll continue to call lawmakers back for more special sessions if legislation with the program doesn’t make it to his desk, something Tarrant County GOP Chair Tim O’Hare said he’d support in a social media post.
“School Choice must pass in Texas,” O’Hare said on X. “If the House doesn’t approve a good bill this session, @GovAbbott should absolutely keep bringing them back until they do.”
Lawmakers hadn’t voted on the bill as a whole as of 4 p.m. Friday.
Beyond creating education savings accounts, the bill includes measures related to school funding and teacher pay, school accountability and special education.
It increases the base amount that schools get per student to $6,700 and includes a $4,000 bonus for full time teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians in the 2023-2024 school year. Those raises would be continued in the next school year with the increased per-student funding, according to a bill summary.
Educator groups have pushed for teacher pay raises in a legislative year with a hefty budget surplus, but have been insistent that the extra dollars should not be used as a bargaining chip for vouchers.
Clay Robison, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association, said in a text ahead of the vote that the group would still oppose the legislation even with the voucher-like program removed because the funding and teacher pay raises are inadequate.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.