In Education

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Threatens To Veto School Choice Legislation Unless It Is Expanded

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday threatened to veto the state House’s revised version of school choice legislation unless it is significantly expanded.

The House Public Education Committee is set to vote Monday on the third revision of Senate Bill 8, a piece of legislation that would provide taxpayer funded vouchers to disabled students or those that attend an underperforming school. Abbott said he will veto this version of the school choice legislation that would make about 800,000 students eligible for vouchers, calling for a more expansive bill that applies to students from “all backgrounds,” according to a Sunday press release.

“The latest House version of school choice, which came out this weekend, only applies to about 800,000 students,” Abbott said in a Sunday statement. “It also provides less funding for special education students than the original House version of the Senate bill and denies school choice to low-income families that may desperately need expanded education options for their children. This latest version does little to provide meaningful school choice, and legislators deserve to know that it would be vetoed if it reached my desk. Instead, the original House version of the Senate bill provides a more meaningful starting point to begin House-Senate negotiations.”

In April, the state Senate passed the first version of SB 8 that would give students within the public school system $8,000 to use on education related services such as tutoring, transportation and curriculum materials. Before presenting the latest version of the bill that Abbott said he would veto, the state House proposed legislation that would make nearly 4 million students eligible for state funded vouchers, providing the funds to kids who have a disability, qualify for the free or reduced lunch program or attend an underperforming school.

“At the same time this Legislature is hammering on parental empowerment, they are trying to sneak in a massive private school coupon under the noses of the vast majority of parents who love their kids’ public school,” Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, told Houston Public Media.

Throughout the country, lawmakers are enacting school choice legislation; Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a piece of legislation into law in March, creating a universal school choice program. In January, Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed school choice bill into law that provides private school students with taxpayer funds.

“No doubt other modifications can be made to the original House version of the Senate bill to attract even more legislators, as well as to bridge the divide with the Senate,” Abbott said in a statement. “Parents and their children deserve the time and effort this will take. My staff and I will continue to work around the clock with the legislature to reach that goal. However, failure to expand the scope of school choice to something close to the Senate version or the original House version of the Senate bill will necessitate special sessions. Parents and their children deserve no less.”

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