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Here come the voucher bills

The Observer reports from the Senate, where two voucher bills were on display.

In fact, the business-tax-credit-totally-not-vouchers bill had already been filed Monday, by McKinney Republican Ken Paxton. So ends the great mystery, begun in a little Catholic schoolroom last December, of who would carry Sen. Dan Patrick’s voucher bill.

That leaves two school voucher proposals—defined as programs that would divert public money to private school tuition—floating around the Senate today. Here are more details on the pair:

Paxton’s Senate Bill 1015 would let companies steer up to 75 percent of what they owe in state taxes to a nonprofit that, in turn, awards private school scholarships for students. Only low-income students, in schools rated “unacceptable” the previous year, would be eligible for the scholarships. Those nonprofits awarding the scholarships can’t spend “100 percent” of their scholarship awards at one school—though they could presumably spend 99 percent at a given school.

[Tommy] Williams’ SB 115, discussed this morning in the Senate Education Committee, would provide a voucher for parents of children in special education programs, with its value tied to the special education funding the school would get from the state. Texas Education Agency General Counsel David Anderson told lawmakers this morning it’s hard to estimate just what that would be worth, because the state’s funding varies widely depending on a student’s disability.

The bills represent just the latest chapter in a decades-long school choice soap opera—either one would represent a milestone in Texas, though House Speaker Joe Straus has already warned his chamber isn’t likely to support any voucher plan.

See here for more about SB 1115. The preamble to this story was about how it had been reported that Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio was planning to file a voucher bill, a statement that he later flatly denied making. I have no idea what happened there, but whether accurate or not if that story led to a lot of people contacting Sen. Lucio and telling him in no uncertain terms that they didn’t want him to file such a bill, it’s all good by me. I think it’s unlikely either of these bills gets anywhere, but that doesn’t mean the idea can’t go forward. We’ll need to keep a close eye on the usual late-in-session amendment shenanigans. For now, these are the bills to watch. The Trib has more.

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