Texas School Choice Proposal May Include Vouchers, Will Spark Political Fight

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According to the Dallas Morning News, vouchers may be on the table as battle lines are being drawn over a proposal to institute a school choice reform regime in the Texas senate. The fight will pit two different visions of how children should be educated.

Chair of the Texas Senate Education Committee Proposes Vouchers

Sen. Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican and the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has suggested that direct vouchers will be on the table as the school choice bill moves through the Texas senate, the Dallas Morning News Reports. A voucher bill was introduced in the special session of the Texas legislature in 2011 that would have paid low-income students in poor performing schools a grant of 60 percent of the state expenditure per pupil to apply for tuition to a private or religious school. Despite the fact that one study suggested that 300,000 students would apply for the program at a savings to the state of $1 billion, the proposal went nowhere.

School choice proposal divided into four parts

The Dallas Morning News has previously reported that the Texas school choice proposal has four parts to it. The plan requires school districts to admit students from neighboring districts so long as they have classroom space, allows students to attend any school within the districts they reside in, lifts the current cap on charter schools, and provides a tax credit that would help low-income public school students transfer to private or religious schools. The tax credit would be given to businesses to contribute to a scholarship fund to pay for private school tuitions .

Last year, ratings for Texas schools plunged

A sudden plunge in the ratings of Texas public schools, reported in 2011 by the Dallas Morning News, is driving school choice. A change in the way performance ratings are calculated showed that there are 569 schools in Texas that are academically unacceptable and 1,224 that were judged to be exemplary.

Teachers groups and Democrats line up against

The Dallas Morning News suggests that a coalition of teachers groups and Democrats will oppose the school choice reform measure, making the matter likely the subject of the biggest fight that will occur in the Texas legislature in the coming session. This coalition maintains that school choice is a distraction from the task of augmenting the funding for public schools, which has been squeezed in recent years due to the need to maintain a balanced budget. The measure may also have trouble passing, especially if vouchers are included, in the Texas house, thanks partly to the opposition of some rural Republican members.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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