Texas Senate Revives School Finance, Vouchers Bill

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AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Senate on Saturday decided to give House Bill 21, the school finance and school vouchers bill, another look. Earlier this week, the legislation had been declared dead.

But without much discussion, senators appointed a special committee to hash out the differences in the bill with members of the House. The House had already appointed conferees.

“To give us some more time to think about the loss of funding that a lot of districts are going to have if this doesn’t go through,” Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswoord, said. “We’re starting to hear from some of the districts that are going to be adversely impacted by this loss of funding.”

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HB21 originally aimed to pump $1.6 billion additional dollars into public schools. The school finance package increased annual per-student funding, as well as spending for school transportation and educating dyslexic students.

But the Senate reduced the plan to about half its worth and offered some special education students vouchers, which allow for using state funding to attend private schools.

The House on Wednesday rejected those changes and voted to convene a conference committee to seek compromise before the legislative session ends Monday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded by declaring the bill dead.

While it’s been revived, Taylor said Saturday the odds of reaching a compromise between both chambers is still “slim.”

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system barely constitutional, though deeply flawed.

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