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Texas Senate Approves Tax-Credit Scholarships; Will the House Go Along?

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Guest post by Andrew Ujifusa

The Texas Senate has approved a bill to create tax-credit scholarships for students to use to attend private schools. Senate Bill 4, which senators approved on April 21, now heads to the House of Representatives.

The bill would create scholarships worth up to $6,000 each for students to put towards the cost of attending private school—that's about three-quarters of what the state spends per student on public schools. Organizations could donate up to half of what they would otherwise pay in state business taxes to the scholarship fund. The bill, sponsored by GOP Sen. Larry Taylor, the head of the Senate education committee, would also create scholarships worth $500 each that public school students could receive for activities such as afterschool activities and tutoring.

It's a big victory for school choice advocates in Texas, which currently doesn't have a private school choice program. Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who used to head the Senate's K-12 committee and has been directing school choice bills this legislative session, is a big backer of tax-credit scholarships, having introduced legislation to create them back in 2013 when he was in the chamber.

"I don't think we're taking money from a public school," said Taylor, whose bill drew objections from, among others, Democratic Sen. Jose Rodriguez, who argued that students in such school choice programs don't see academic benefits. "The student is moving."

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, which the Dallas Morning News notes is not a lock to approve the bill. A few weeks ago I wrote a story detailing the plethora of high-profile K-12 bills in the Texas Legislature this year—in that story, I note that the Texas House has swatted down private school choice programs several times, dating back about 20 years. 

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