Voucher Bill Set for Hearing; News on Bathroom Bill and School Finance

Voucher Bill Set for March 21 Hearing:  SB 3 is the high-profile private-school voucher bill of the 2017 Texas legislative session, assigned a low bill number as a token of the priority placed on the bill by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer. It has been noteworthy that the bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing thus far in the 2017 session.

Now the bill does have a hearing date:  March 21 in the Senate Education Committee. The bill’s author is Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), the committee chair. Taylor initially set the bill for March 16, then pulled it from the agenda for that date and reset it for March 21.

Texas AFT strongly opposes this voucher bill, which has been described as a combination of two bad voucher proposals–education savings accounts and tuition tax credits. Both operate by drawing down dollars otherwise destined for public education, diverting the money instead to private schools that lack accountability to Texas taxpayers for what they do with the money. We urge you to send your legislators a letter now opposing this bad idea and all kindred bills.

Bathroom Bill Takes Unwarranted Priority in Texas Senate: Another of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities is SB 6 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), telling local governments they cannot decide for themselves on policies regulating bathroom use by transgender individuals. Texas AFT opposes the bill as a solution in search of a problem and a distraction from real issues. As several speakers at Texas AFT’s Capitol rally put it on Monday, the focus of the Legislature ought to be on classrooms and their funding needs, not bathrooms. Nonetheless, nearly the entire day on the floor of the Texas Senate Tuesday has been devoted to SB 6, which was given initial approval by a vote of 21 to 10. Fortunately, this needless legislation is likely to receive a chilly reception in the Texas House, where there is much dismay over the Senate’s misplaced priorities.

House Panel Keeps Moving on Promising School-Finance Bill:  At this writing a second round of testimony on the main House school-finance proposal is imminent in the House Public Education Committee. Texas AFT considers this bill, HB 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), a good start that would help set the stage for the longer-term, comprehensive rewrite of Texas school funding that our schoolchildren need. An upcoming Hotline will detail some of the bill’s important features and further improvements in it that lawmakers should consider.