By Ashleigh Costello
AUSTIN, Texas – Lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would allow Texas businesses to redirect tax revenue toward a private school scholarship program which would benefit low-income students trapped in failing public schools.
State Sen. Ken Paxton filed a bill last week that would allow businesses to redirect up to 75 percent of their franchise tax or premium liability tax to a certified nonprofit educational assistance organization that would provide underserved students with tuition money for private schools, reports The Houston Press.
“The bill requires that educationally disadvantaged students receive top priority for scholarship consideration,” said Paxton. “I filed similar legislation in the Texas House and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to find ways to provide better education opportunities for our children.
The untitled bill, simply known as SB 1015, has gained the support of Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Last month, Dewhurst said he is committed to passing a voucher bill in the current legislative session.
School vouchers have been a particularly tough sell in Texas. Unsurprisingly, the teachers unions oppose the tax credit idea, calling it “voucher-like.” Union officials (and many public school officials) would rather keep children trapped in failing public schools than be forced to compete for students and the state dollars attached to them.
“This idea’s been floated for much of pre-session … but it’s an old, recycled idea that needs to hit the scrap heap,” said Rob D’Amico, spokesman for the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. “This is a voucher in another guise. Regardless of where they say the money’s coming from, in the end you’re taking money from public education and putting it into private schools that aren’t held accountable for taxpayers.”
The bill is not currently scheduled for a vote.
Paxton filed a similar bill in the House in 2003, and again in 2011. Both bills failed to gain approval.