Texas Republicans pass school bill slammed as 'defunding public education'

A school funding bill that would enact a voucher program for education in Texas was passed by the state Senate right before midnight Tuesday – and has been slammed by opponents as "defunding public education."

The Senate's version of House Bill 100 would give parents who opt out of the public schools up to $8,000 in taxpayer money per student per year to pay for private education.

The original version of the bill had included allocating $4.5 billion in new funding for teacher pay raises and other budget expenses for schools. The House had rejected the voucher-like program, the Texas Tribune reported.

Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett posted a copy of the revamped H.B. 100 on his Twitter account, saying it "strips money from public schools to fund private vouchers. But in the process of latching vouchers to the bill— they killed teacher pay raises and money for special education."

He added: "Republicans in the Texas Senate passed a bill defunding public education."

He also pointed out that the vote "happened on the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde."

Local Fox4 News called the final bill "drastically different" than it was when it began. The report implied it was a last-minute, slap-dash effort to simply pass something.

"The Senate voted 18-13 to advance its version of House Bill 100. Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, joined Democrats in voting against the bill," the report said.

The legislation between the two chambers is so different that the House must now pass the bill again, after previously approving its version. It isn't expected to pass in its current form.

"The bill now heads back to the House, where members will most likely have to negotiate the differences with the Senate," Fox4 explained. "But with only five days left in the Legislative session, it's a race against time for both chambers to reach a compromise."

All of it is to appease Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), who told lawmakers he wanted a "voucher bill," and that he wouldn't sign anything that didn't fund his private schools. If it doesn't happen, Abbott said he's not above calling a special session if they don't pass the bill he likes.

The first bill was a Republican proposal for $4.5 billion in new funding for schools, and modest pay raises for teachers while balancing their budgets "as inflation diminishes the value of the money they get from the state," the report said.

The new bill is only $3.8 billion with half a billion goes to private school vouchers.

According to the Private School Review, "the average private school tuition in Texas is $10,454 per year (2023). The private elementary school average tuition cost is $10,067 per year and the private high school average is $11,497 per year."

A Feb. 2023 piece in The Nation by education experts Jack Schneider and Jennifer C. Berkshire called voucher programs like this a kind of reverse Robin Hood, which robs from the poor to deliver the best education to the wealthy.