Legislature Narrowly Averts Funneling Public School Funds to Private Schools

How schools fared in Texas' 88th legislative session

Photo via Getty Images

Democrats – and many House Republicans – began the session optimistically, pushing House Bill 100, a school funding bill that would have provided $5 billion to public schools and given pay raises to 70,000 Texas teachers. But Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican leaders staked their political capital on a plan allowing parents to take money out of public education to help pay for private school tuition. The vouchers scheme, called "school choice" or "education savings accounts" by Abbott, has historically been disliked by rural Republicans because it would weaken public schools, which are often the centerpieces of small communities.

The House explicitly rejected vouchers in March and sent HB 100 to the Senate. It languished there until the last days of the session, when Senators suddenly tacked vouchers onto it and sent it back to the House for approval. That was never going to work. The two sides refused to compromise and now we have no additional funding for schools and no statewide raises for teachers.

"Only teachers are punished over a political fight," wrote the Republican sponsor of HB 100, Rep. Ken King, after it died. "I am truly sorry HB 100 did not pass, but in the end I believe students, teachers, and schools are better off with current law than they would be if we accept what the Senate is offering." King promised to fight vouchers if Abbott adds them to the special session he called on Monday night, or any future one.

Republicans had better luck with their bills promoting Christian nationalism, which continues to stomp its way into our public schools. They failed – through ineptitude – to pass a blatantly unconstitutional bill that would have required teachers to post the Ten Commandments prominently in every classroom in the state. But they passed equally bad bills allowing chaplains – Christian only, and uncertified – to replace counselors at public schools, banning books from school libraries, and forcing schools to employ at least one armed person on campus.

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88th Legislature, Austin ISD, Ken King, vouchers

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