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Two key votes at the Texas Legislature will shed light on the road ahead for education savings accounts

By Texas Tribune Staff, The Texas Tribune

Two key votes at the Texas Legislature will shed light on the road ahead for education savings accounts” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Two votes expected at the Texas Legislature on Thursday will serve as the clearest indication yet of how lawmakers feel about education savings accounts, the voucher-like program championed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Watch the debates — and learn more about what’s at stake — below.

Texas Senate expected to approve Senate Bill 8

In the Texas Senate, lawmakers will vote on Senate Bill 8, which would create savings accounts that would give parents who opt out of the public school system up to $8,000 in taxpayer money per student each year. These funds could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring.

[What you need to know about education savings accounts, the voucher-like program championed by Gov. Greg Abbott]

The bill also would restrict classroom lessons, school activities and teacher guidance about sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and charter schools up to 12th grade. The bill is one of several pending pieces of legislation that could affect the lives of gay and transgender Texans, including one that would restrict the type of health care transgender children can receive.

The bill is expected to receive initial approval from the Senate; Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the chamber’s leader, has long been a supporter of voucher-like programs.

Follow the live debate on SB 8 at the Texas Senate below:

Texas House budget vote will show chamber’s appetite for voucher programs

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House will debate amendments to their version of the state’s budget for the next two years, including a proposal by Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, which calls for a ban on using state dollars to pay for school voucher programs.

The vote will provide the first glimpse into a crucial question for education savings accounts this session: whether such a program will have enough support in the lower chamber.

Democrats and rural Republicans in the House have banded together in previous sessions against any measure that would send public dollars to private schools and potentially hurt public schools’ finances. Since Texas funds its schools based on attendance, any child that leaves a public school would result in less money.

Senators know that funding for public schools will be a top concern for rural Republicans. They added a provision in SB 8 that would give districts with less than 20,000 students funding of about $10,000 for every student who enrolls in the program and leaves their district. Districts would receive the additional funding annually for two years.

Thursday’s vote in the House will shed light on whether concessions like these have helped change attitudes toward voucher-like programs.

Follow the live debate on the school voucher budget amendment at the Texas House below:

This story will be updated; check back for details.

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