AUSTIN, Texas -- A standoff between the Texas House and Senate over vouchers killed a major school finance fix Wednesday.
The House tried to pump $1.6 billion dollars more into public schools. The Senate didn't want that much and countered by tacking on their own priority.
The author of the House Bill 21 rejected the changes made to it in the Senate, saying they don't go far enough.
Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the system was barely constitutional. So the House approved pumping $1.6 billion additional dollars into it but that plan came out of the Senate reduced to $530 million.
"What are you going to tell those districts? What are you going to tell those parents when you go home?" said Rep. Dan Huberty R – Houston.
The Senate also added what public school advocates call a poison pill, a voucher option for students with disabilities to use public money for private schools.
“Taxpayer dollars are nothing but Texan’s dollars and they’re every bit as much of Texan’s dollars with special needs children as they are with children that are neurotypical,” said Rep. Ron Simmons, R – Carrollton.
Despite pleas from a couple of House members, the majority of the lower chamber stood firm in keeping any sort of school voucher program off the table.
"To take that completely off the table is unacceptable. We're telling parents they get one choice and that's it,” said Rep. Jason Isaac. R – Dripping Springs.
The Lt. Governor said in a statement that the House members who voted against HB 21 as amended in part, quote, “ignored the needs of disabled children to take a stand against school choice."
"Don't for one second think that I'm not going to fight for those children,” said Rep. Huberty.
But Huberty, who has a son with special needs, says it's about standing up for all of Texas' 5.3 million public school kids and coming up with a funding solution to a school finance system that's been deemed "broken."
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released the following statement Wednesday after the Texas Senate declared House Bill 21 “dead.”
“I want to thank Dan Huberty, Diego Bernal and the members of the House Committee on Public Education for their incredibly diligent and thoughtful work over the last year on the issue of school finance. I also want to thank the members of the Texas House for strongly supporting House Bill 21. The House passed a bill that put more dollars into almost every district, made needed changes to our funding formulas, and kept more local dollars in local schools. We also provided critical funding to help students with disabilities in House Bill 21 and House Bill 23. The House does great work, but we can't fix school finance by ourselves, and this hasn't been a priority for the Senate. The Senate has chosen to focus on sending taxpayer dollars to private schools. Most House members don't support that idea, as today's vote once again showed. We appointed members of a conference committee today because the House was willing to continue working on public school finance immediately. Unfortunately, the Senate walked away and left the problems facing our schools to keep getting worse.”
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Dan Patrick released the following statement: