Written by Emma and Anna Little
Senate Bill 3, the Educations Savings Accounts bill, passed the Texas Senate yesterday by a vote of 18-13, with changes that essentially turn the bill into what some are calling a pilot program.
The original bill was amended before passage. Several key changes from the original bill impact who can participate and the funding participants could receive.
Here is what the bill does now:
Who is Eligible?
Eligible students in the amended bill:
- Must have attended public school for one year prior to participating in the program
- Must live in a school district in a county with a population of over 285,000 ( 17 Texas counties are this size or larger)
- Be a member of a moderate- to low-income household.
In summary, students of mid to low income households from Texas’ 17 largest counties who are just beginning to home school or private school (having left public school the previous year) are eligible.
- All children with disabilities who are eligible and enrolled in the program would be awarded 90 percent of the district funds earmarked per student. This would be approximately $8,000.
- All other eligible families would receive 75 percent of the amount normally allocated to the public school for that child. This would be approximately $6, 800.
How would these changes affect home schoolers?
This bill will have no impact on home schoolers who are ineligible or who choose not to participate.
The amended bill significantly reduces the reach of the program from the intent of original bill. Although the bill does not expand freedom to the degree it originally did, it is a small step toward more liberty for parents. Now, only students new to home schooling or private school, having left the public school the previous year are eligible for the program.
Senate Rejects Restrictions on Parents
This version of the ESA bill includes all of the protective language THSC originally requested, protecting home school and private school participants from any attempted control by the state.
Liberal Republican Sen. Kel Seliger argued against the bill saying that it included no regulation on those participating. Author of SB 3, Sen. Larry Taylor defended the bill, arguing that parents are, in fact, the “ultimate accountability” because they will choose schools and educational programs that are good for their children.
Notably, an amendment was offered by Democratic Sen. Rodriguez to require that private schools receiving funds under the program meet “accountability” requirements, specifically, annual testing and annual campus performance ratings. Conservatives defeated the amendment by a vote of 18-13, leaving control with the parents participating in the program.
More Freedom for Parents
If SB 3 becomes law (it must also pass in the Texas House), it will further empower eligible families to control their own education—a top priority for Texas home schoolers.
As we reported, in a recent scientific poll of home school families in Texas, 95 percent of respondents indicated support for more parental choice in education and 71 percent indicated support of Education Savings Accounts.
THSC’s legislative priorities for 2017 are parental rights, CPS reform and UIL access. While SB 3 is not one of these priority issues, we remain supportive of SB 3 because the bill increases freedom for parents and families who choose to begin home schooling.
THSC is committed to Keeping Texas Families Free and giving parents the liberty to decide what is best for their own kids.