Vouchers Suffered a Blow in the Texas House, but "Vouchers" Definitely Are Still in Play

Yesterday the State House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1, a new state budget of $193.8 billion, by a lop-sided vote of 135-12.

One of the more surprising parts of the bill's passage is the approval of an anti-private school voucher amendment, passed by a vote of 103-43. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, and passed with bipartisan support, says plainly that money cannot "be used to pay for or support school vouchers."

Two Dallas representatives, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, and Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Garland, were among the nay votes for Herrero's amendment.

Button's vote "was neither in favor of nor against vouchers," a spokesperson says, but that she thought it was more appropriate for for such a large and divisive issue to be debated in committee. We've reached out to Branch and will update when/if we get a response.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, voted for the amendment but was one of the 12 votes against the overall budget, saying it doesn't go far enough to help schools or Medicaid, according the the Dallas Morning News. The budget restores $2.5 billion to public schools in an effort to undo some of the damage from previous cuts of $5.4 billion.

Governor Rick Perry has praised vouchers and called for even more charter schools to join the system, but the amendment's success shows that at least members of the House aren't convinced.

While this is being billed as a death knell for vouchers, proponents of "school choice" still have a footing in the State Senate. Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has authored Senate Bill 23, the "Texas Equal Opportunity Scholarship Program," which would allow businesses to donate scholarship-awarding charities in exchange for tax credits, and Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, has proposed a similar bill.

As Mike Norman points out in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, if businesses are donating money in exchange for tax breaks that could otherwise be going to the state, lawmakers against vouchers can argue that the state is still losing money it could send to public schools.

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Luke Darby
Contact: Luke Darby