State senator introduces school choice bill with financial options

Options outlined in Texas SB 3

By Pilar Arias - Reporter

AUSTIN - School choice supporters were happy to hear proposed legislation filed Monday that would give parents more financial control of their child's education.

Senate Committee on Education Chairman Larry Taylor announced Senate Bill 3 along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick during a press conference.

If passed, the bill would establish an education savings account program, tax credit scholarship and educational expense assistance program for eligible students.

"We, as parents, know our children better than anybody else," public charter school parent Jessica Payan said. While standing with other like-minded parents, Payan and others expressed their frustrations about their tax dollars going to public schools their children aren't attending. The mother would also like to see charter schools get as much state funding as public schools.

"Whether my child's attended a public charter school that happened to pop up in the neighborhood or I sent him to a traditional public school, the funds should've been there, regardless of what I chose," Payan said.

Charters receive state funds based on average daily attendance, according to the Texas Charter Schools Association, but none from local tax revenue. And the majority don't get state facilities funding.

"Partnerships between our parents, our community, our staff and our elected officials are essential to ensure that our children receive the education that they need to be put on the path to college," IDEA Mays College Prep founding Principal Gerald Boyd said during a news conference Monday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Patrick are strong supporters of the school choice initiative, as previously reported.

Taylor's proposed bill seeks to provide financial assistance to families wishing to send their children to private schools.

"What we are doing is providing a choice for parents who are not wealthy enough," Patrick said. "We're providing choice for students trapped in failing schools that have been failing forever. Where's the outrage about that?"

Inga Cotton has two concerns about the school her kids go to, Great Hearts Monte Vista.

"I really hope that the school can receive fair funding so the school can retain these veteran teachers. The school is in a leased building and I don't know where the school will be located in the long run," Cotton said.

The decision to expand school choice is now one to be voted on during Texas' 85th Legislature.

The Texas State Teachers Association released a press release saying the "so-called school 'choice' proposal has nothing to do with parental choice but instead is another attack on public education. It would further shortchange Texas public schools and the vast majority of children who will continue to be educated in them." Click here to read the full statement.

The San Antonio Independent School District issued the following statement:

As a district with a growing number of school choice options, we are proud to be a district where families can make great choices in their neighborhood school district. We support options for public school choice, but not state-funded private school choice. In a state that does not fund education adequately today, it is imperative that we adequately fund our public schools first before even considering private schools receiving public funding.

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