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Texas school choice bill frees students, leaves money

By   /   January 31, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

A Texas school choice bill is a financial winner for school districts and a boon to parents, Sen. Larry Taylor says.

Photo courtesy of Texas Legislature

FOR THE KIDS: Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, says school choice in Texas would work like a debit card good for private schools, tutoring and online courses.

Senate Bill 3 leaves half the per-pupil allocation with the school district that’s losing the student. Even though the district gains a vacant seat, the SB 3 formula would still allocate $1,800 or more per departed pupil.

“It’s more money for fewer kids,” said Taylor, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and author of the bill.

The legacy funding would remain for one year to enable school systems to adapt to the loss of students who choose other scholastic options.

With roughly half of the state budget — and half of local property taxes — spent on K-12 education, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said school choice is a no-brainer.

Some 80,000 new students enter Texas public schools each year, with lower-income pupils constituting the majority of the increase. Many are zoned for the worst-performing districts in the state.

“We’re leveling the playing field for parents desperate for choices,” Taylor, R-Friendswood, told Watchdog.org in an interview.

Participating private schools must be accredited by the state.

School officials opposed previous attempts to pass school choice legislation and are gearing up to do so this year, but Patrick said public support is gaining.

“This is about kids. This shouldn’t be a tough bill to pass,” he said.

House Speaker Joe Straus killed a Senate-passed school choice measure during the 2015 session when his education committee wouldn’t give it a hearing.

With Gov. Greg Abbott promoting school choice during his State of the State address on Tuesday, Patrick is hopeful the legislative logjam can be broken this year.

“We already have school choice in Texas … if you’re rich enough,” Patrick said.

RELATED: School choice – The demand is there

Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward

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Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.