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Texas Senate passes historic expanded public school funding, universal school choice bills

The bills were Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority listed on the call for the third special session, and he said he would do whatever it takes to pass them.

Published: October 15, 2023 11:11pm

Updated: October 15, 2023 11:12pm

(The Center Square) -

The Texas Senate passed two historic education-related bills to expand school choice and increase funding for public school education.

Authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, the bills were Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority listed on the call for the third special session. Abbott has said he would do whatever it takes to pass the bills, including calling as many special sessions until they are passed.

Creighton filed companion bills to create Texas' first school choice bill and also to expand additional funding for public schools on top of already record funding allocated during the regular legislative session.

SB 1 creates education savings accounts of up to $8,000 per student and gives Texas families "the power to determine the best school for their child, with their tax dollars," Creighton explains.

Creighton said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote that, "Senate Bill 1 is not merely legislation, it's a pledge to Texas parents, a testament to our trust in their decision-making capabilities and investment in the dreams of our young Texans respecting their individual specific education needs."

After more than eight hours of debate, the Senate passed SB 1 by a vote of 18-13. Sen. Robert Nichols, R–Jacksonville, was the sole Republican to vote against it.

The bill heads to the House Education Opportunity & Enrichment Committee.

SB 2 allocates record funding for public school education, including increasing the basic allotment for per-student funding and giving raises to teachers across the board.

It passed nearly unanimously by a vote of 30-1. It was received in the House but has not yet been assigned to a committee.

After the bills passed, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pointed out that the Senate had already passed school choice and teacher pay raises during the regular session and the measures failed in the House. He said the House, "under Speaker [Dade] Phelan's leadership, never came to an agreement on any of these bills during the regular session and they all died. Now, one week into the special session, the House has not even scheduled a single hearing, let alone passed a single bill. … Texas parents want school choice to pass. Texas teachers want pay raises."

At a school choice event in Austin on Thursday night, Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his commitment to getting the bill passed.

"Parents have a God-given right to decide what is best for their child's education," he said. "Texas has an obligation to provide the best possible education for each child. I called Special Session #3 to pass school choice for every family in Texas. Texas will deliver."

"As we traveled the state of Texas—helping educators, legislators, and Texans understand what we were doing about school choice—we began on the 20 yard line," he added. "With each passing day, we made yard after yard, first down after first down. We as a state have an obligation to our kids—to get them educated—and we can do that with a universal Education Savings Account program in the state of Texas. What we are doing is running a relay race that began in 1989. The baton has now been handed off to me, and it is my job to carry it to the finish line. I am committed to however long it takes, and I will not stop until we get school choice passed in the state of Texas."

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