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A revamped education bill that hopes to enact school vouchers in Texas would offer more money to schools and create academic accountability measures for students in the program, representing the most significant concessions voucher advocates have yet offered to influence to the skeptics.
Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, released the revised House Bill 1 on Friday, which includes multiple funding increases for public schools. Most notably, the base allocation, which is the base amount of money the state gives a district for each student it educates, will increase from $6,160 to $6,700 and will be adjusted for inflation starting in 2026-2027.
With lawmakers unlikely to pass a voucher program in the few days left in the current special legislative session, Buckley said he will introduce his new bill in an upcoming special session that Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to announce soon.
The Texas House and Abbott have been at odds over what kind of public school funding and voucher bill to present. Buckley’s earlier version of HB 1 proposed modest increases to the basic allotment and a school voucher program that would have been open only to certain groups of students. Abbott is adamant that he wants a program that will be open to all students with no enrollment restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Senate promptly passed its own school voucher proposal in early October. The program outlined in Senate Bill 1 would be open to all Texas students, but would give priority access to low-income students and students with disabilities if there are more applications than available funds. The House of Representatives did not advance this bill and it remained without a House committee hearing.
Buckley said his new legislation was created after receiving input from House colleagues, the governor’s office and education stakeholders. The resulting revisions represent the most aggressive effort to address the concerns of voucher opponents in the House.
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new bill.
The new version of HB 1 also revolves around education savings accounts, a voucher-like tool in the form of state-controlled accounts that would give parents access to taxpayer money to pay for private school and other education costs.
Under Buckley’s previous version of HB 1, only 25,000 Texas students could participate in the program in the 2024-25 school year. Now, any Texas student would be eligible to apply and there would be no enrollment cap. The bill contains a system that prioritizes students with disabilities and low-income families.
“This is going to be completely universal from the ground up,” said Jaime Puente, director of economic opportunity for Every Texan. “The only limitation for the voucher program in the new version is the limit of budget funds.
Under current budget proposals, the program would initially have about $500 million. Each child in the program will receive about $10,500 a year, meaning more than 40,000 students will be able to participate. Homeschoolers accepted into the program will receive $1,000.
Notably, the bill also includes accountability provisions to sway skeptical House members who argue that private schools that receive state funds through the program must meet the same academic standards as public schools. Under the new HB 1, children accepted into the program must take a standardized test; if they have poor grades for two consecutive years, they will be kicked out of the program.
Both the Senate and private school advocates have strongly opposed giving any grade to students who participate in a voucher program, saying it takes away from the autonomy of private schools and amounts to state government interference. The responsibility should be left to the parents, they argue.
Paige Williams, legislative director of the Texas Association of Classroom Teachers, said the accountability measures are “a step in the right direction” that she hasn’t seen in other states’ voucher programs. But, she said, education advocates would like to see the basic allotment increase closer to $1,000 to account for spikes in inflation since 2019.
“We recognize that this is a big difference from the previous bill,” she said of the underlying allocation increase in HB 1. “But we certainly don’t view any of the parts of the bill as changing our position against vouchers.”
School districts are asking lawmakers to increase the basic allotment because inflation has eroded their purchasing power. Under state law, districts must use a portion of the new core allocation funds for teacher and staff compensation increases.
The bill also includes a one-time bonus of $4,000 for full-time teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. That figure drops to $2,000 if those employees work part-time. The bill includes increased funding for special education and several related grants.
He’s also calling for measures to help keep teachers in the profession as Texas grapples with a teacher shortage. They include funding to help school districts pay for more student rooms for teachers and programs that place prospective teachers in classrooms with mentors for about a year, teaching them how to do the job before hiring them as full-time teachers next year.
Also included are free pre-service teachers’ children and increases to the Teacher Incentive Allotment, a program that promises to pay teachers up to six-figure salaries if they meet certain performance requirements. About 13,000 teachers, or about 4 percent of the state’s faculty, are currently part of the program.
Rep. James Talarico, D-Austin, a key member of the House Democratic caucus, said the voucher program is non-negotiable along with public school funding.
“Our position remains the same: no vouchers, no bribes, no deals,” he said.
Disclosure: Every Texas and Texas Classroom Teacher Association has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in Tribune journalism. Find a full list of them here.